After two years of not qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria completed its run at the tournament as the third best team in Africa.
The Super Eagles defeated, Tunisia, 1-0, in Cairo, Egypt in the third-place game. Former Watford forward Odion Ighalo scored his tournament-leading fifth goal in just the third minute.
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Ighalo took advantage of a terrific cross from Jamilu Collins and a mistake between Tunisia’s Moez Ben Cherifia in goal and centerback Yassine Meriah. Ben Cherifia parried the cross away but Meriah ended up right next to Ben Cherifia and the ball deflected off Meriah towards Ighalo. Ighalo was quickest to the ball and toe-poked it home for the early goal.
Both teams had chances to score later in the match, but they lacked the finishing touch. Ferjani Sassi put a shot just wide for Tunisia, while Wilfried Ndidi skied a chance of his own.
Nigeria could have made it 2-0 if not for a great save late from Ben Cherifia. A free kick from Samuel Kalu in the 90th minute was tipped just over the bar by Ben Cherifia, a highlight save but one that was a bit too late for Tunisia.
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi started and went the full 90 as a support striker. He’ll likely get a few weeks off before joining up with the rest of Arsenal for the tail-end of preseason, and he’ll likely miss the first few weeks of the Premier League season due to the late finish for the Africa Cup of Nations.
The appetizer to the main course takes place today as Tunisia and Nigeria meet in the third place match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Both sides fell in the semifinals on last-minute goals, with Tunisia dropping to Senegal on an extra-time own-goal while Nigeria was pipped by a Riyad Mahrez 95th minute winner.
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While this match is obviously a chance for both sides to finish the tournament on a high note, also notable is the race for the Golden Boot. Odion Ighalo is in the lead with four goals and could look to tack on to that total with Mahrez, Adam Ounes, and Sadio Mane all on three goals and playing in the final.
Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr will want to save face after a disappointing tournament, and while he received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Nigerian federation, he still will want something tangible to take home. The Super Eagles came into the tournament as the third-highest FIFA ranked African nation, but after a shaky group stage performance and a pair of narrow one-goal knockout stage wins before the loss to Algeria, the need for a quality outing is great.
Five of the six previous matches between these two teams have ended in draws, so something has to give this time in Cairo.
Each side saved a penalty in the second half of the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal match between the top two FIFA-ranked teams in the competition, but Senegal got around a wasteful performance up front thanks to a wild stroke of luck.
With the game 0-0 after 90 minutes, the key moment came in extra time as Senegal swung a free-kick into the box, and Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen came flying out for the punch. With no Senegalese players in sight, is clear came off the head of Tunisian defender Dylan Bronn and deflected into the back of the net.
The goal made right for Senegal a host of other missed opportunities, including a saved penalty off the foot of Henri Saivet in the 80th minute that would have broken the scoreless deadlock.
There were a total of 26 efforts on net between the two sides in the match, but only three total on target. Senegal hit the post in the 30th minute on what was close to a sensational goal by Youssouf Sabaly who cut in from the left and unleashed a wonderful curler that struck the top-right corner of the bar. They came close again in the 38th minute as Sadio Mane got through the back line and rounded the goalkeeper, but couldn’t get his shot on net as his touch took him wide right at a tight angle.
Tunisia will also rue a failed penalty attempt, with Ferjani Sassi’s weak effort saved comfortably in the 75th minute by Alfred Gomis after Kalidou Koulibaly handled a shot in the box.
Senegal makes the Africa Cup of Nations final for just the second time in its country’s history after reaching in 2002 and falling to Samuel Eto'o‘s Cameroon on penalties. They will play the winner of Algeria and Nigeria in the final on Friday.
The Africa Cup of Nations has seen a host of upsets through the knockout round, but still the top three FIFA-ranked sides in Africa have reached the semifinals of the competition as the tournament nears a thrilling conclusion.
[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]
First up, Senegal and Tunisia – the top two FIFA-ranked teams in Africa – meet in Cairo. Sadio Mane leads Senegal into the semifinals, one of four players in the tournament with three goals, battling Algeria’s Adam Ounas and Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo for top scorer in the competition.
Senegal has won its last two matches by a 1-0 score, squeaking past Uganda and Benin in its two knockout-stage wins. They’ll have their biggest defensive test yet against a Tunisia side that put three past Madagascar last time out in the team’s first victory of the tournament having drawn all of its previous four matches.
In the later bout, Nigeria takes on cinderella story Algeria, who came into the competition ranked 68th in the world and have reached their first AFCON semifinals since winning their only title in 1990. Algeria has conceded just a single goal all tournament, to Ivory Coast last time out in the 1-1 draw that saw them advance via penalties. Nigeria, meanwhile, has needed a pair of second-half winners to get them past Cameroon and South Africa in the knockout stage in exciting one-goal wins.
2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Sunday, July 14
Senegal v. Tunisia – 12 p.m. ET
Algeria v. Nigeria – 3 p.m. ET
Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinals are set for Cairo, as Tunisia will meet Senegal and Algeria tangles with Nigeria.
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All but Senegal have won AFCON crowns, though Nigeria is the only one to claim the honors in the last seven tournaments.
Madagascar 0-3 Tunisia
A two-goal burst from Ferjani Sassi and Youssef Mskani by the hour mark prodded Tunisia past the surprising Barea.
Naimi Sliti scored deep into stoppage time to complete the score line, which ends Madagascar’s first AFCON with three wins (one by penalties), a draw, and this loss.
Tunisia last won AFCON in 2004.
Algeria 1-1 (4-3 pens) Ivory Coast
Sofiane Feghouli gave Algeira a first half lead, but Jonathan Kodija (Aston Villa) answered at the hour mark for the only goals of regulation.
Youcef Belaïli smashed the post with his bid to score the winning penalty, but Les Elephants could not take advantage of the opening. Serey Die his the same post with similar vigor and Algeria moved to within two wins of its title and final since 1990.