AFCON 2019: Semi-finals recap


As the African Cup of Nations 2019 moved towards its climax, Sunday (14th July) saw the final four contenders go head to head in two pulsating semi-finals in search of a place in the final of Africa’s continental showpiece.

The first of the semi-finals saw West Africans Senegal take on one of Northern Africa’s stronger footballing nations, Tunisia, in an entertaining battle of styles at Cairo’s 30 June Stadium.

Photo – @CAF_Online. Team lineups for Senegal v Tunisia

A Senegal side that had won ten of it’s last 12 matches lined up with the familiar and powerful spine of Kalidou Koulibaly, Cheikhou Kouyate, Idrissa Gana Gueye and star man Sadio Mané. Youngster Krepin Diatta also made his way back into the starting XI after impressing off the bench in recent games.

The Tunisians lined up in a solid 4-3-3 formation, as their clever technicians in midfield looked to provide ammunition for trusted front three Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni And Taha Khenissi.

The Senegalese started the better in hot conditions in the Egyptian capital, as Tunisia struggled to cope with the pace and power on offer for Aliou Cisse’s men.

However, in a niggly opening spell, Tunisia fashioned the first real chance as Msakni headed over unmarked from a corner before at the other end Youssouf Sabaly came inches away from breaking the deadlock as his curling effort struck the upright.

As Tunisia struggled to get any controlled possession, Senegal continued to ask the questions and M’Baye Niang spurned a great chance from ten yards before Sadio Mané couldn’t keep his balance to finish after rounding the goalkeeper.

The Tunisians would have been pleased to go into the break level having been largely outplayed in the opening period. The North African’s were quick out of the blocks after the break though, and wasted great chances to take the lead through striker Khenissi and midfield man Ferjani Sassi.

The second half was a more even affair and burst into life late on as Tunisia were awarded a penalty as the ball struck Kalidou Koulibaly’s arm in the box. Sassi stepped up to take the spot kick, but his poor attempt was easily kept out by Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis

Just a few minutes later, Senegal were awarded a penalty themselves for a late challenge in the box and with Sadio Mané missing from the spot previously, up stepped Henry Saivet. Again though a poor penalty was well stopped by Mouez Hassen in the Tunisia goal.

With neither side able to find a way through, the game went to extra time. The decisive moment came in unfortunate fashion as Tunisian ‘keeper Hassen flapped at a cross, the ball coming off the face of defender Dylan Brown and rolling into his own net.

Photo – @caf_online_FR: Senegal rejoice after their somewhat fortunate winner

There would be one more moment of note as Tunisia were awarded another penalty in the 115th minute, again for a handball. However the decision was reversed after a VAR review as Senegal saw the game out to clinch a place in Friday’s final.

Leading Senegalese newspaper ‘Le Soleil’ reacted with joy at full time, acknowledging they were given the tough and intense game they expected against an experienced Tunisia side:

Text – Le Soleil

While ‘Eurosport’ awarded Sadio Mané man of the match and believe Senegal are in prime position to be crowned champions of Africa:

Text –

Later that evening, Algeria faced Nigeria in the second semi-final as two of Africa’s top footballing nations went head to head at a noisy Cairo International Stadium.

Algeria starting XI: M’Bohli, Zeffane, Bensebaini, Mandi, Benlamri, Feghouli, Mahrez, Guedioura, Bennacer, Belaili, Bounedjah

The impressive Algerians lined up with a a technically gifted midfield including Ismaël Bennacer and Sofiane Feghouli and had the creativity of Riyad Mahrez and Youcef Belaili looking to provide for lively striker Baghdad Bounedjah.

Image @NGSuperEagles.

Nigeria were looking to carry on the steady momentum they had been building and started with Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze behind in-form striker Odion Ighalo.

It was Algeria who started strongest, controlling the first half, and they really should of been ahead when Ramy Bensebaini headed over a Bennacer free – kick from close range.

As they kept pressing, striker Baghdad Bounedjah pounced on an error by Kenneth Omerouo but couldn’t beat Nigeria Daniel Akpeyi goalkeeper in a one on one situation.

When ‘Les Verts’ eventually did take the lead, it was in fortuitous fashion as Riyad Mahrez’ cross bounced off Nigerian defender William Troost Ekong into his own net.

After the break, the Algerians lost their way somewhat, and Nigeria gained a foothold without really testing the backline of Algeria. The Super Eagles did find a way back into the game with 20 minutes to go though, as they were awarded a penalty for handball (against Aissa Mandi) following a VAR review. Odion Ighalo stepped up to score and put the game back into the balance.

As the game moved towards the final stages, both sides blazed chances over the bar, while Bennacer came agonisingly close as he struck the woodwork in added time. The game seemed destined to go to extra-time until Riyad Mahrez stepped up to curl home a wonderful free-kick with the last kick of the match.

Photo – @CAF_Online. Mahrez’ last gasp free-kick clincher

Heartbreak for the Nigerians, but delight for an Algerian side that have looked impressive throughout the showpiece to date and now head into what should be a fantastic final against Senegal.

After the game an emotional Djamel Belmadi looked ahead to his side’s final against the Senegalese, hoping his team can lift the trophy for the Algerian fans:

Image – @CAF_Online

While Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr was in philosophical mood, acknowledging that the fine margins which saw them win late on in the previous round went against them this time.

Image – @CAF_Online

Top French newspaper ‘L’ÉQUIPE’ reacted with superlatives for Mahrez’ winning goal, while pointing out Algeria have reached their first AFCON final since 1990:


Algerian joy was reported around the globe, with Nigerian newspaper ‘The Punch’ reporting that “riotous” celebrations across France went to far, leading to numerous arrests:

Text – ‘The Punch’

A dejected Tunisia and Nigeria will look to pick themselves up ahead of Wednesday’s (17th July) third/fourth placed play off match at the Al – Salam Stadium in Cairo.

Then it’s the big one. Senegal face Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium in the AFCON 2019 final as two of African football’s finest of for the continent’s biggest prize.

Look out for previews and reports on both in the coming days as the 2019 African Cup of Nations reaches an exciting conclusion.


About Author

Comments are closed.