With 33rd edition of African Cup of Nations being underway, it is a good time to have a look at the African Cup of Nations finals history.
The tournament started back in 1957 and since then, 32 finals have been held across 18 African countries. As of today, 14 different nations have managed to conquer the African football by winning African Cup of Nations which is the continent’s most prestigious football event. Egypt with 7 championships is currently the most decorated nation across Africa and Cameroon with 5 is chasing them. Just Like Egypt, Ghana also have reached to the final of the tournament on 9 occasions but they have lost 5 of them which makes Ghana the third country in terms of winning the gold medal in
African Cup of Nations finals history
In the following article, we are going to have a review of the most remarkable finals in theAfrica Cup of Nations history
. The final match of a tournament is always a joy to watch even for the neutrals. There are finals that will always be remembered for record-breaking victories, heartbreaking defeats, and well-deserved underdogs that took the superior sided by surprise. So, if you are interested in some history lessons about African Cup of Nations champions winners, we got you covered.
The Africa Cup of Nations 2021 final might also turn out to be one of those memorable ones; but before that, these are our picks for the most notable games in African Cup of Nations history:
Egypt vs Ethiopia in 1957
Sudan vs Ghana in 1970
Cameroon vs Nigeria in 1984
Ivory Coast vs Ghana in 1992
South Africa vs Tunisia in 1996
Cameroon vs Nigeria in 2000
Tunisia vs Morocco in 2004
Egypt vs Ghana in 2010
Zambia vs Ivory Coast in 2012
Ivory Coast vs Ghana in 2015
1957 in Sudan was where it all started. A few months after the creation of the Confederation of African football, the continent’s first ever football tournament took place in Khartoum, Sudan in the February of 1957. There were no qualifications to determine the participating teams and four nations got directly selected to take part in the first edition of the tournament:Egypt
, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa. But then South Africa got banned from competition due to its apartheid policy which was insisting on using only white players on their national team.
Therefore, the 1957 African Cup of Nations was consisted of only three teams and the champions got crowned by playing two matches. The first match in
Africa Cup of Nations history
was a semi-final between Egypt and the hosts Sudan which ended 2-1 in favor of Egypt. The first final of the tournament took place in Municipal Stadium in Khartoum at February 16 of 1957 in front of 30.000 spectators. The Egyptian attacker Mohamed Diab Al-Attar as known as Ad-Diba, scored all four goals of the match and handed Egypt the first ever African Cup of nations trophy.
From 1962 to 1970, there were five African Cup of Nations held andGhana
was a finalist in four of them and won two gold medals. So, you could say that the 1960s was Ghanaian domination era in African football. On their fourth consecutive final, Ghana had to face against the hosts Sudan who was hosting the competition for the second time – after hosting the first edition. The 1970 tournament was the first one that was covered for television broadcasting and the second edition of tournament that had a group stage before the knockout rounds; since there were eight countries participating in the competition.
Flashback to seven years earlier, Ghana and Sudan played another final in African Cup of Nations finals history in 1963 with Ghana being the hosts. Ghana won the match 3-0 to celebrate their first ever championship. So, the 1970 final was a golden opportunity for Sudan to take their revenge and they didn’t lose it. Only 12 minutes into the game, Hasabu El-Sagheer cheered up the hosts fans with his goal. Sudan managed to protect their lead to the end of the match and win their first and only African Cup of Nations championship.
During the 1970s, six different countries managed to win the title. In addition to Sudan,Morocco
and Congo also won their first and up to this day only championships during this decade. In 1980, Nigeria found the chance to host the competition and they managed to win it for the first time with a 3-0 win against Algeria. After Ghana winning its fourth gold medal in 1982, the 1984 final between Cameroon and Nigeria was a thrilling one in the African Cup of Nations finals history. The tournament was being held in Ivory Cost and was hosted by two cities: Abidjan and Bouake.
Neither of sides had a great start at group stage as both of them finished second in their respective groups. Also, both of them won the semi-finals with penalty kicks. Cameroon beatAlgeria
after a goalless draw and Nigeria defeated Egypt after a 2-2 draw during the 120 minutes. In March 18 of 1984, Nigeria was hoping for their second title and the early goal from their midfielder Lawal was a promising start. But Cameroon responded through N'Djeya in 32’ minute. Finally, Cameroon completed the comeback in 79’ minute as Abega scored his third goal of the competition and then Ebongué sealed the deal to make it 3-1 and Cameroon got crowned as the Champions of Africa for the first time in their history.
Before the 1992 African Cup of Nations in Senegal which was the 18th edition of the tournament, Egypt won its third title in 1986, Cameroon won its second one in 1988 and Algeria wrote its name amongst the
African Cup of Nations champions winners
for the first time in 1990. The 1992 tournament welcomed another new name in the hall of champions in Africa Cup of Nations history. It was the first edition of the African Cup of Nations that had 12 teams participating in it. Those 12 teams had to compete in 4 groups of 3 and the top two teams of each group would advance to quarter-finals.
As the most decorated national team in the history of the competition, Ghana was the favorites to win the title. On the other hand, Ivory Coast had never experienced playing in a Cup of Nations final. In January 26, the two faced each other in Stade de l'Amitié, Dakar to decide the champions. Neither ofIvory Coast
and Ghana managed to score a goal and it was down to penalty kicks. Apart from two kicks, every player was converting their shots – even the goalkeepers. Finally, the 12th round of penalty shootouts decides the winner as Aka Kouame scored for Ivory Coast and Baffoe missed his chance to level for Ghana. That was Ivory Coast’s first ever championship and Ghana’ third loss in African Cup of Nations finals history.
After a decades-long ban due to the apartheid regime, in 1996South Africa
made its first appearance in the African Cup of Nations as the apartheid era ended in the country. They were the hosts of the 20th edition of the tournament (originally Kenya meant to host the competition but then South Africa took their place). That tournament was the first one that was supposed to have 16 teams in 4 groups of 4. But the titleholders Nigeria withdrew from the competition due to pressure from then-dictator Sani Abacha. Therefore, the tournament kicked off with 15 teams in January 13, 1996.
South Africa had a decent start on their debut campaign and topped their group. They beat Algeria and Ghana on their road to final to face Tunisia – who was experiencing their second final after losing the first one to Ghana in 1965 with a 3-2 scoreline. The final was being played in FNB Stadium at Johannesburg in front of 80.000 passionate fans. With a brace from former Wolverhampton forward Mark Williams in the space of two minutes, South Africa won the match and lifted the trophy on their first appearance in the tournament.
and Nigeria have shared three finals in the African Cup of Nations finals history and the most thrilling one was the 2000 final in Nigeria. It was the third edition of the competition that had a 16-team format that was spilt into four groups. It was also the first African Cup of Nations that had two countries as the hosts as Ghana and Nigeria jointly hosted the 32 games of the tournament in 4 cities. Cameroon had to beat Algeria and Tunisia on their way to the final and Nigeria came on top against Senegal and South Africa.
The final was an amazing clash between two giants that had so many big names in their lineup such asEto‘o
, Okocha, Kanu, Geremi, Song, Mboma, Oliseh, etc. The 19-year-old Samuel Eto’o was having a fabulous game as he scored the first goal of the match and assisted the second one. Nigeria was utterly outplayed in front of their own 60.000 fans in Lagos National Stadium. But a late first half goal from the Nigerian striker Chukwu keep the hopes alive for the second half. A stunner long-range shot from Jay-Jay Okocha leveled the match and the scoreline remained intact until the end of the 120 minutes.
Cameroon’ shot stopper Alioum Boukar denied Kanu in the penalty shootouts and Geremi scored for Cameroon to put his side ahead. Victor Ikpeba’ penalty for Nigeria has barely passed the goal line but there was no goal line technology back then and the assistant referee decided that the ball didn’t get over the line. Marc-Vivien Foé lost his chance to win the match for Cameroon and it was down to the skipper Rigobert Song who converted his shot and handed Cameroon their third championship and the first one since 1988. With so many great names on the pitch and a dramatic sequence of events, the 2000 final was surely one of the most spectacular ones in the
African Cup of Nations finals history
came close to win the title on two occasions. The first one was in the early editions of the tournament in 1965 when they lost the final on their home soil to Ghana. In 1996 they had another chance to lift the cup but this time South Africa beat them to it. Finally, in 2004 the Eagles of Carthage (Tunisian national team nickname) managed to win the African Cup of Nations as the host country. They were hosting the tournament for the third time in its history.
Tunisia topped their group with 7 points out of 9 and had to face Senegal in quarter-finals. A one-goal win guaranteed their place at semi-finals where they had to face against the mightyNigeria
. A late equalizer from Badra meant that the penalties have to decide one of the finalists. For the second consecutive time, Nigeria lost a penalty shootout in AFCON and Tunisia was one step away from its first ever championship. They took that step by winning 2-1 against one-time champions Morocco in the final at Radès, Tunisia with 60.000 Tunisians celebrating in the Stade 7 November (now called Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi).
From the begging days of the AFCON, Egypt was considered as one of the powerhouses in the continent. Up to
Africa Cup of Nations 2021
, Egypt was one of the two finalists on nine occasions – equal to Ghana and more than any other team across Africa. Since 2006 African Cup of Nations which was held in Egypt, The Pharaohs (Egyptian national team nickname) started to dominate the African football with the Egyptian manager Hassan Shehata at charge. From 2006 to 2010, Egypt has reached to three straight finals and won all three of them which was unprecedented in the African Cup of Nations finals history.
They won the first one on penalties against Ivory Coast, the second one was a 1-0 win against Cameroon at Ghana in 2008, and the last one came in 2010 AFCON at Angola. Egypt had a perfect start to the tournament with winning all three group stage matches. In a replication of 2008 final, Egypt beat Cameroon in quarter-finals and smashed Algeria with 4 goals at semi-finals. The big match was between the four-time champions Ghana and Egypt who was ready to write their name in history with their third consecutive title. A late goal from Gedo concluded the match in favors of Egypt. AlongsideMexico
, Argentina, and Iran, Egypt are the only countries that has won three straight continental titles.
The 2012 African Cup of Nations was an unusual one as so many of African giants were absent in the tournament. The titleholders Egypt, four-time champions Cameroon, as well as Algeria, Nigeria, and South Africa couldn’t qualify for the 2012 AFCON which was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. But still, it didn’t fail to entertain fans around the world with so manymemorable moments
throughout the campaign. Zambia under the French coach Hervé Renard put on a delightful performance with insisting on attacking football. They made their way to the finals by beating Sudan and Ghana in the knockout rounds.
On the contrary, Ivory Coast was the best defending team in the tournament with François Zahoui at the dugout as they didn’t concede any goal before the penalty shootouts in the final. The match venue was Stade d'Angondjé, in the city of Libreville in Gabon; Only a few hundred meters away from the 1993 air disaster crash site that had Zambian national team onboard and all of them were killed. After nine penalty kicks for each side,Zambia
won the match and dedicated their first and only win in the African Cup of Nations finals history to the victims of the mentioned plane crash.
The 30th edition of African Cup of Nations was hosted by Equatorial Guinea in 2015. It was after Nigeria winning the 2013 AFCON at South Africa with a 1-0 win versus Burkina Faso. It was the third consecutive AFCON that Egypt couldn’t qualify for – following to their three consecutive championships that was mentioned above. Ivory Coast had a worrying start as they won only one match in the group stage. But things got better and they won Algeria and DR Congo with the similar score line of 3-1 to see themselves in the final.
On the other side of the table, Ghana also enjoyed two similar 3-0 score lines against Guinea and the hosts Equatorial Guinea to face against Ivory Coast in the final. One of the interesting facts about
African Cup of Nations finals history
is that all of the four finals that Ivory Coast played in, ended up in penalty shoutouts and the 2015 final was one of them. After failing to score for 120 minutes, once again it was down to penalties to decide the winner. Both teams lost two of their first-five shots. They went toe-to-toe until it was the goalkeeper’s turn to take their shots. Barry, the Ivorian keeper, denied his opposite number’ penalty and converted his shot to lead Ivory Coast to its second championship in the Africa Cup of Nations history.
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