Algeria had a run to remember in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, especially in the knockout stages. The Desert Foxes had thrilling victories in the quarter and semifinals to get past Ivory Coast and Nigeria, respectively. A goal from striker Baghdad Bounedjah, albeit a deflected one, was enough to beat Senegal in the final and give Algeria their second-ever AFCON trophy.
However, Algeria’s triumph wasn’t the only memorable part of the month long soccer festivities in Egypt. Upstart underdogs like Madagascar and penalty shootout drama also created some great moments.
Here are some of the statistics that help tell the story of the tournament.
Asamoah Gyan wasn’t even supposed to be playing for Ghana in this year’s AFCON. In late May, he retired from international football after being stripped of the captains armband. He later changed his mind after talking to the president of Ghana.
Gyan, who played for Turkish club Kayserispor last season, is his country’s all-time leading scorer with 51 goals. By playing in two matches for Ghana, he made his seventh overall Africa Cup of Nations appearance. He had made his first AFCON finals appearance all the way back in 2008.
Unfortunately, his appearance couldn’t spark Ghana, as they went out on penalties to Tunisia in the Round of 16.
Despite losing in heartbreaking fashion in the semifinals, Nigeria still finished in third place, beating Tunisia thanks to an early goal from Odion Ighalo. He pounced on a mistake from goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia, who parried a low cross off a defender and left the net wide open.
Ighalo hit the back of the net five times, winning the Golden Boot of the tournament. His best performance came when he scored a brace to help lift Nigeria over Cameroon in the Round of 16.
AFCON was his swan song on the international stage, however. After the tournament, Ighalo announced his retirement from the national team.
Just like at the World Cup, a majority of Tunisia’s offense went through Wahbi Khazri. He can play as an attacking midfielder, picking the ball up in the center of the park and pushing it forward. He also can whip in dangerous balls into the penalty area on free kicks, troubling opposing goalkeepers. Playing as a winger during the knockout rounds, he used his creativity in the final third to open up opportunities for not only himself, but his teammates.
Per beIN Sports, Khazri created twenty scoring chances at AFCON 2019, the most of any player in the tournament, eight more than second-place Youcef Belaili of Algeria. Khazri’s best game came in the quarterfinals against Madagascar when he notched two assists in Tunisia’s 3-0 win.
A record number 24 teams were included in the 2019 tournament, making it the largest in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations. Previous editions had only 16 teams participating.
Madagascar impressed in their first-ever AFCON campaign, going unbeaten in their first four games. After drawing 2-2 against Guinea in their opening group stage match, Madagascar won two straight games against Burundi and Nigeria. Then in the Round of 16, they beat DR Congo 4-2 on penalties before bowing out to Tunisia in the quarterfinals.
The two teams in this year’s final also had the stingiest defenses. Both Algeria and Senegal only conceded two goals throughout the entire tournament. Algeria didn’t allow a goal until the quarterfinal against Ivory Coast. Senegal shut out every country they faced other than Algeria. The only goals they gave up came in their two 1-0 losses during the group stage and final, respectively.
Mali had a brilliant start to the Africa Cup of Nations, finishing first in their group with seven points. But the momentum came to a quick halt when a Wilfried Zaha goal in the 76th minute helped Ivory Coast beat Les Aigles in the Round of 16. Despite outshooting their opponents, 17-7, Mali came up short.
Dominating shooting chances was a trend for Mali. They were second in shots on target with five, and weren’t afraid to let it fly from long distance. Per WhoScored.com, they led the tournament in shots taken from outside the box with 7.5 per game. They averaged the third-most total shots per game in the tournament, and more than half of them came from outside the box. They found some success from that range, leading the tournament in goals from outside the box as well.
Despite losing in the final, Senegal still enjoyed a nice Africa Cup of Nations. Star winger Sadio Mane led the way with three goals along with Stade Rennais star Ismaila Sarr playing as a solid sidekick.
Manager Aliou Cisse implements a lot of flexibility within his lineups. Mane can either play on the wing or as a center forward, and the same goes for Sarr as well. Both are skilled forwards who can beat a defender in one-on-one situations.
They were a big reason why Senegal led the tournament in successful dribbles with 12.9 per game. Mane was second among all players with 6.2 per game while Sarr finished seventh.
Defending cup holders Cameroon were defeated in the Round of 16 by Nigeria. Their offense struggled throughout the tournament. Cameroon’s two goals in their knockout game equaled the total they scored in the entire group stage. Part of this can be attributed to the referees raising the offsides flag when they try to push the ball up in attack.
Cameroon were caught offsides 15 times, the highest of any team in AFCON per WhoScored.
It took merely 80 seconds for Algeria to get on the score sheet. Baghdad Bounedjah received a nice pass down the left flank, playing a clever dummy to beat his initial marker. He cut inside right in front of the penalty area and shot the ball towards the near post. However, it took a wicked deflection and the ball sailed upwards instead. It skied over keeper Alfred Gomis into the bottom right corner of the net for an astonishing goal that took place in record time.
Per FIFA, it was the fastest ever scored in an AFCON Final.