Tuesday Dec 24, 2019. 12:00
With the end of the year fast approaching, it’s time for us to pick our top five African football moments of 2019. Here, in no particular order, are our favourite events of the year.
Algeria crowned African kings
Any list of top football moments on the continent this year has to include the Africa Cup of Nations, and Algeria’s return to glory was one of the most compelling narratives of 2019. Under the guidance of Djamel Belmadi, the Fennec Foxes put in controlled and concise performances at Egypt 2019 and they were rewarded with just a second AFCON title. Their next challenge is to continue in the path they have set and return to the World Cup in 2022.
Madagascar defy the odds
Algeria’s triumph at Egypt 2019 was not the only major news story of Africa’s biennial continental tournament, with Madagascar defying the odds to reach the quarterfinals on their AFCON debut. Barea did it in style too, topping Group B ahead of Nigeria, Guinea and Burundi before putting out DR Congo on penalties in the round of 16. Tunisia outclassed them in the last eight, but Nicolas Dupuis’ team had already made an unforgettable impression by then.
Mane and Salah lead Liverpool to Champions League glory
After being humbled by Real Madrid in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final – which also saw Mohamed Salah injured by Sergio Ramos – Liverpool returned to the final in 2019 determined to set the record straight, and as soon as Salah scored an early penalty against Tottenham they had an iron grip on the trophy that they never relinquished. Sadio Mane and Salah scored a combined nine goals in the UCL and were the key drivers in the Reds’ success.
Anssumane Fati bursts into the limelight
Though he appears on course to represent Spain at senior international level, Anssumane Fati can certainly be considered an African football star given his roots in Guinea-Bissau, and his spectacular emergence for Barcelona early this season was a major news event on this continent. The 17-year-old forward still has much to learn, but already he has racked up several records – including youngest goal scorer in UCL history – and has the potential to become a global superstar.
Nigeria, Cameroon advance at Women’s World Cup
Women’s football on the African continent has made major strides in recent years, and a significant landmark in this regard was the qualification of both Nigeria and Cameroon to the last 16 at the Women’s World Cup in France earlier this year – the first time two CAF teams have made it into the knockouts. Both may have been as third-placed teams, and both may have been soundly eliminated by Germany and England respectively, but the strides made by the Super Falcons and Indomitable Lionesses represent an important raising of the bar for African women’s football.