The 32nd edition of the Total African Cup of Nations comes to an end with the concluding match being the final on Friday 19 July, 2019 at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo. It is a battle of the jungle between the Terranga Lions from Senegal and the Desert Foxes of Algeria. There would be a historic milestone on the sidelines; a local coach would be crowned champion whatever the result is. 11 local coaches have won 15 AFCON titles in the previous 31 editions. Nigerian Stephen Keshi was the latest to achieve this feat in 2013. Either Belmadi or Cisse will join this prestigious list come Friday night. Cameroonian referee Sidi Alioum is the man in the middle to officiate the final. He officiated the opening match of the tournament and has been given the honors to close it out.
SENEGAL v ALGERIA – FRI. 19 JULY 2019, 20.00HRS
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The Terranga Lions are in their second AFCON final as they seek their country first ever continental title. Coach Aliou Cisse will aim to lead his team to go one step better from the sidelines than he did as captain at the 2002 final. Senegal entered this tournament as one of the favorites, ranked as Africa’s best and have lived up to the expectation of many bookmakers by securing their place in Friday’s final. Can the Lions finally join the exclusive 14 previous winners? Senegal have not let their fans down with their run in the tournament so far but they haven’t produced the sophisticated football expected with the array of stars at the team’s disposal. Kalidou Koulibaly and skipper Cheikou Kouyate excellent partnership at the back has been the bedrock of the team’s strength. Senegal have conceded once throughout the tournament, keeping five clean sheets in six matches. The excellent pair have been solid in the knockout stage, Senegal have kept three successive clean sheets enroute this final. However, this pair will need a master class performance against a rival that has broken them earlier in the competition if they aim to triumph on Friday.
From underdogs to contenders and now favorites in Egypt, it has been a remarkable journey for Djamel Belmadi who is yet to celebrate one year in charge as Fennecs boss. Belmadi was only 14 years the last time Algeria graced this stage as he prepares his team for one of the biggest night of their career. Riyad Mahrez 89th minute brilliant freekick handed Algeria their first AFCON final in 29 years as the Foxes go in search of their second continental title. Algeria may have benefited from the underdog status as there was little expectation and they thrived under less pressure but have been the most outstanding team in the competition. Djamel Belmadi’s team waltzed through the group stage leaving no stone unturned by winning all three matches. As the tournament got tougher when the knockout stages kicked off; Algeria switched gears and got better seeing off Guinea in the Round of 16. They need penalties to edge Ivory Coast in the quarter final and a brilliant freekick to knock Nigeria out in the semis. The Fennecs boast of the best attack in the tournament with 12 goals so far with goals shared amongst their attackers.
VERDICT – Who will win the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final?
Senegal and Algeria met in the group stage and it was Algeria who came out tops with a narrow victory. The Desert Warriors have a better head-to-head against the Senegal winning four of the last five meetings. Senegal’s biggest threat in attack in Sadio Mane, the Liverpool ace has three goals while his strike partner M’Baye Niang has struggled in front of goal. Riyad Mahrez will be the one to watch for the Algerians following his impressive showing against Nigeria. His combination with Youcef Belaili and Baghdad Bounedjah will give Senegal defense a game of their lives. Mentally, Algeria will have the edge having got the better of their rival earlier in the tournament and have managed to score in every single game so far. Algeria are slight favorites for the final but Senegal cannot be ruled out with Sadio Mane in attack.
It is a wrap; we believe you have thoroughly enjoyed the 51 matches of the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Do not miss the final and our mouthwatering offers for the final of Africa’s biggest football showpiece. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng