The Africa Cup of Nations is nearing the end of its summertime debut, with the final officially set to feature Algeria going up against Senegal. Both semifinal matches were played on Sunday, and both featured some wild finishes that will certainly left the supporters of both losing nations absolutely heartbroken.
The more thrilling of the two endings happened during Algeria’s game against Nigeria. Algeria had a plethora of chances in the first half, which resulted in enough pressure to force a Nigerian own goal in the 40th minute. Odion Ighalo tied things up in the second half, 1-1, when VAR determined that an Algerian defender had committed a handball in the box, and awarded the Super Eagles a penalty. The game seemed to stall out entirely, with neither side being able to put anything together, until Algeria put one final push together and earned a free kick at the end of the penalty box. Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez lined up for the kick and curled his shot into the far corner for the late winner.
Even better is replay that includes Arabic commentary from former Algerian player, Hafid Derradji, who appears to break down in tears as his team celebrates their winner.
But enough with the good feelings, let’s get to the boner.
Senegal-Tunisia was the other AFCON semifinal game that occurred earlier in the day. Both teams showed equal fight throughout regulation, with each offense getting a fair share of chances. The closest either came to scoring in the first 90 minutes was because of penalty kicks. A controversial penalty was awarded to Tunisia in the 73rd minute when a shot attempt was blocked by the elbow of Napoli and Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly—he was subsequently booked and will miss the final as a result. Fortunately for Senegal, Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi made the mistake of hesitating during his attempt and fired a very savable shot into the arms of keeper Alfred Gomis. Minutes later, Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr was fouled in Tunisia’s penalty box for a much more cut-and-dry foul call. Henri Saivet took over for Sadio Mané at the spot since the Liverpool star had missed his last two attempts. In a true sign of teammate solidarity, Saivet also failed on his attempt, with Hassen diving to save the shot.
The game went into extra time tied 0-0. The deadlock was finally broken in the 100th minute, when a terrible goalkeeping boner from Tunisia’s Moez Hassen left the net wide open for the ball to deflect off of his fingers, bounce off of defender Dylan Bronn’s head and nonchalantly make its way into the back of the net for an own goal.
Both teams are returning to the AFCON final for the first time in quite a bit. For Algeria, 1990 was the last time they appeared in this tournament final—they also defeated Nigeria then, 1-0—while Senegal’s first and only appearance came in 2002, where they lost to Cameroon on penalties.