Wed 05 January 2022 | 17:30

Biggest AFCON upsets of all time

In this post, we will be talking about some of the most surprising and unpredictable results we have ever witnessed in Africa Cup of Nations.

The African Cup of Nations is Africa's biggest football competition, showcasing the best players the continent has to offer, who play for some of Europe's most prestigious teams. The CAF Africa Cup of Nations, or CAN (French: Coupe d'Afrique des Nations), is Africa's largest international men's association football event. It is sometimes known as AFCON, or Total Africa Cup of Nations, after its major sponsor.

It was first conducted in 1957 and is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). It has been organized every two years since 1968, with the odd-numbered years beginning in 2013. The current Cup champion is Algeria who is also included in our review of some of the Biggest upsets in soccer history. Egypt has won the event seven times, making it the most successful nation in the competition's history (including in 1959, when Egypt was united with Syria as the United Arab Republic).

During the tournament's history, three trophies have been awarded, with Ghana and Cameroon earning the first two editions to keep after each of them won the competition three times. The current trophy was presented for the first time in 2002. Egypt won three titles in a row for the first time in 2006, 2008, and 2010. To avoid clashing with the FIFA World Cup, the event format was changed in 2013 to be held in odd-numbered years.

When a large team with great players defeats a smaller squad in football, it is expected. When the mighty fall and the underdogs prevail, it becomes a memorable upset that makes the news for weeks and also making it into our list of biggest upsets in African cup of nations. For months, years, and even decades, it's all anyone can talk about.

Biggest AFCON upsets of all time You're Here to Know about

We've compiled a list of such events that are also considered to be among the Greatest football upsets of all time, telling you about the strangest football games in AFCON history. But before we do that, we’ll give you general information and a summary of the AFCON itself.

A Brief Overview and History of AFCON

The African Nations Cup dates back to June 1956, when the proposal to form the Confederation of African Football was made at FIFA's third congress in Lisbon.

There were early plans for continental competition, and the first Africa Cup of Nations was staged in Khartoum, Sudan, in February 1957.

There were no qualifying rounds for this event, which featured the four founder members of the CAF (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa).

One of the facts in our article of the Biggest AFCON upsets of all time is that

South Africa

was disqualified for insisting on only choosing white players for its squad owing to its apartheid policies, while Ethiopia was given a bye straight to the final.

As a result, only two matches were held, with Egypt becoming the first continental champion after defeating Sudan in the semi-final and Ethiopia in the final.


hosted the second ANC in Cairo two years later, with the same three teams competing. Egypt, the host and defending champion, triumphed once more after defeating Sudan.

For the third ANC in Addis Ababa in 1961, the field expanded to nine teams, and for the first time, a qualification round was held to determine which four teams would compete for the title. 

Ethiopia, the host nation, and Egypt, the defending champion, were given automatic spots, and


and Tunisia joined them in the final four.

Egypt reached the final for the third time in a row, but Ethiopia emerged victorious, first defeating Tunisia and then defeating Egypt in extra time.

Ghana made its debut appearance in the event in 1963, hosting it and winning the title after defeating Sudan in the final.

They did it again two years later in Tunisia, equaling Egypt as the only two-time champions, with a squad that only included two returning members from the 1963 side.

The CAF established a rule in 1965 limiting each team's number of foreign players to two, another one of the facts in Biggest AFCON upsets of all time. The rule was in place until 1982.

The final tournament format for the 1968 competition was enlarged to include eight of the 22 teams who had competed in the preliminary stages.

The qualifying teams were split into two groups of four to compete in single round-robin tournaments, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals, a system that was used until 1992 for the finals.

In the final, the Democratic Republic of Congo defeated


to win its first title.

The competition was held every two years in even-numbered years starting in 1968; this ended with the 2012 tournament, which was followed by a tournament in 2013, and successor editions in each odd-numbered year.

Laurent Pokou of the Ivory Coast scored six and eight goals in the 1968 and 1970 tournaments, respectively, and his total of 14 goals held the all-time record until 2008.

One of the top facts we decided to include in

Biggest AFCON upsets of all time

is that for the first time, the 1970 Sudanese tournament was broadcast live on television, with the hosts lifting the championship after defeating Ghana, who were playing in their fourth straight final.

Three trophies have been awarded to the victors of the Africa Cup of Nations during the competition's history.

The Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, made of silver, was named after the first CAF president, Egyptian Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem.

Ghana was the first country to win three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, earning the right to keep the trophy permanently in 1978.

The second trophy, known as the "Trophy of African Unity" or "African Unity Cup," was given from 1980 until 2000.

It was a cylindrical piece with the Olympic rings over a map of the continent inscribed on it that was handed to CAF by the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa before the 1980 event.

It had stylized triangular handles and set atop a squared base. After becoming three-time champions in 2000, Cameroon won the Unity Cup indefinitely.

The third trophy, a gold-plated cup designed and manufactured in Italy, was unveiled in 2001. After winning the 2002 event,


, the permanent holder of the previous trophy, was the first country to receive the new trophy.

After becoming three-time champions in 2010, Egypt earned the gold-plated cup indefinitely. Unlike previous winners, who were given the trophy and allowed to keep it, Egypt was given a special full-size duplicate that they were allowed to keep.

Each edition's winner receives a replica of the original trophy with the same measurements, one of the interesting details we thought you should know while reading Biggest AFCON upsets of all time.

In the final tournament, the CAF awards 30 gold medals to the winner, 30 silver medals to the runner-up, 30 bronze medals to the third-place team, and 30 diplomas to the fourth-place team.

Now without further ado, let's get into our main topic, regarding the biggest upsets in African Cup of Nations.

Benin vs Morocco (2019 African Cup of Nations)

This encounter was a textbook example of heavyweight vs. underdog in our list of the Biggest AFCON upsets of all time. When


faced Benin in the second round of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, all the odds were plainly to the North African team's advantage.

Benin, in fact, punched above their weight by making it past the group stage. Morocco had been expected by several commentators and analysts to reach the group stage's final, or worst-case scenario, exit at the group stage.

To put things in perspective, Morocco won all of their group stage matches, whereas Benin drew all of theirs and barely qualified for the next round as one of the worst losers. Benin stunned the entire world by defeating Morocco 4-1 on penalties after the game was tied 1-1 at the end of extra time in Cairo's Al-Salam Stadium.

Benin was reduced to ten men for the final 23 minutes of extra time after Khaled Adenon was dismissed for allegedly shoving the referee, a second bookable offense. He hesitantly exited the field before getting into an altercation with the Moroccan bench.

It was Morocco that had to equalize through Youssef En-Nesyri late on to cancel out Moise Adilehou’s opener for Benin. From the opening minute, the underdogs appeared to be looking for penalties, as seen by their accurate kicks.

Morocco, on the other hand, looked nervous in the shoot-out, with Sofiane Boufal blasting over the bar and Youssef En-Nesyri seeing his kick saved. This game can even be considered as one of the

Greatest football upsets of all time.

Malawi vs Algeria (2010 African Cup of Nations)

This is the only game on the list where the underdogs did not have a fantastic tournament, but Malawians will remember this game from the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

Malawi entered the tournament as a minnow, with the expectation of finishing last in Group A, which included Angola, the tournament hosts,


, and Mali.

They finished last in the group, winning only one of their three games, but it was a huge win and that win is the reason they made it to our

Biggest AFCON upsets of all time


With nine European-based players in their starting lineup and the game commencing in the mid-afternoon, Algeria struggled in the suffocating tropical heat and made matters much more difficult for themselves by handing Malawi the opening goal. This game was probably one of the Biggest upsets in soccer history.

Nobody, not even the Malawian head coach, anticipated them to win by three goals to zero in their opening group match against Algeria, who weren't the powerhouse they are now but were still very excellent at the time.

Any chance they had of making a tournament run following that win was quickly dashed. Algeria advanced to the semifinals despite losing their next two games and falling out.

Malawi, who earned one point from three games in their first appearance in 1984, which featured a 3-0 loss to Algeria, were not anticipated to perform much better than this.

Burkina Faso vs Ghana (2013 African Cup of Nations)

One of the top facts in the

biggest upsets in African Cup of Nations

is that lightning struck twice for Ghana as they suffered the same fate in the same stage of the competition, this time at the hands of Burkina Faso, after losing to an underdog, Zambia, in the AFCON semifinals the year before.

Burkina Faso

was the AFCON 2013 overachievers, finishing first in their group ahead of Nigeria, Guinea, and the defending champions Zambia. They advanced to the semifinals, where they were supposed to be eliminated by Ghana.

They were on the verge of being eliminated, but they rallied to defeat the Black Stars. The Burkinabe were denied two penalties, a goal was disallowed, and their star player, Jonathan Pitroipa, was wrongfully sent off. To make matters worse, they gave up a soft penalty, allowing Ghana to take the lead.

After Isaac Vorsah's penalty kick went wide, Burkina Faso took control of the shootout, with Bakary Kone, Henri Traore, and Bance all scoring.

Even though Atsu went to the ground after they challenged for a high ball, Ghana was fortunate to be awarded a penalty in the 13th minute by Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi since there looked to be little or no contact between Koulibaly and Atsu.

Many people assumed it was over at this time. Burkina Faso, on the other hand, recovered and equalized by an Aristide Bance header, then held on to win 3-2 on penalties and advance to the final, one of the Biggest AFCON upsets of all time.

Zambia vs Ivory Coast (2012 African Cup of Nations)

If the semifinal triumph over Ghana was the second-largest upset of the tournament, the final win against Ivory Coast is the first and most likely one of the Biggest AFCON upsets of all time.

Zambia had the task of defeating what was perhaps the greatest African team ever created, Ivory Coast 2012, after defying all odds to reach the final.

Only five of the underdogs players had international experience. At the same time, their opponents showcased

Didier Drogba

, Yaya and Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Cheik Tiote, and a slew of other players.

Despite this, there did not appear to be a significant difference in quality between the two teams during the encounter.

The game itself was tight, with little chances here and there, with Zambia taking the majority of them, despite Didier Drogba memorably missing the greatest chance, a penalty in the final minutes of regular time, which the Ivorian captain and talisman missed.

After 120 minutes went by without a goal, the game went to penalties, which Zambia won 8-7, sending Ivorian fans into despair and Zambian fans into ecstasy.

"We know what we wanted to honor this evening, it was a sign of destiny, written in the sky, there was a force with us. I think God has helped us and given us strength," Coach Herve Renard told about one of the

Biggest upsets in soccer history

to a post-final press conference.

Zambia vs Ghana (2012 African Cup of Nations)

Many football fans still consider AFCON 2012 to be the best version of the legendary tournament in recent memory. This is mostly owing to Zambia's efforts.

Before the tournament began in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea, Zambia was rated 71st in the FIFA world rankings. Many people were never willing to give them a chance.

Yet, with their brilliant style of offensive play and tenacious defense, they quickly began to win hearts and gain attention.

The Chipolopolos went on to dominate their group and get to the semifinals, where they pulled off one of the

Biggest AFCON upsets of all time

by defeating Ghana 1-0.

Ghana came into the game as one of the pre-tournament favorites and was widely predicted to win. Nonetheless, a replacement, Emmanuel Mayuka's 78th-minute goal, startled their star-studded lineup, sending Zambia to the final.

After Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty in the first half, the substitute grabbed the ball and steered a shot into the bottom corner with only 12 minutes left.

Despite the Black Stars' domination and the penalty miss, Zambia's Chris Katongo had another golden chance in the first half, but his shot went wide.

The Chipolopolo have never won the competition, but for the first time since 1994, the two-time runners-up had advanced to the final.

Madagascar vs Nigeria (2019 African Cup of Nations)

One of the Biggest AFCON upsets of all time also happens to be the most recent. In a group stage encounter at AFCON 2019,


stunned Africa by defeating a star-studded Nigeria 2-0. Madagascar's Lalaina Nomenjanahary scored the game's first goal, courtesy of a poor defensive effort by Nigeria's Super Eagles.

Concurrently, Carolus Andriamatsinoro deflected a free-kick, ensuring Madagascar's place in the last 16 as Group B winners. Madagascar absolutely lived up to their image as the competition's fairytale story, defeating Nigeria 2-0 to win Group B.

The Barea made an impression with a tie against Guinea and a draw against Burundi, but they surpassed all expectations by a fantastic performance and goals from Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro.

Nomenjanahary sneaked in front of Leon Balogun on the edge of the Nigeria box after 13 minutes and smoothly rounded Ikechukwu Enzenwa before slotting home.

The Barea were the more determined when attacking, and Carolus Andria's free-kick deflected off Wilfred Ndidi, giving Enzenwa no chance as it went in off the far post after Ibrahim Amada was felled on the edge of the box.

Madagascar was ranked 108th in FIFA, whereas Nigeria was ranked 43rd. Madagascar had also qualified for the Nations Cup for the first time. They were expected to lose all three of their group stage games and leave the tournament, but they defied all odds.

The debutants not only defeated three-time Afcon champions Nigeria by two goals to none but also finished first in Group B ahead of Nigeria and advanced to the quarterfinals, an incredible achievement, including one of the absolute Greatest football upsets of all time.

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source: SportMob

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