5 things we learned from AFCON 2019
After almost a month of football fiesta in Egypt, all is now set for the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
On Friday, July 19, Algeria and Senegal will take to the Cairo International stadium to battle over who becomes continental champion.
In truth, this AFCON has been a complete package: there has been excitement, mixed bags and controversy in equal measure.
As the tournament draws to a close, we take a look at five things we learned the last one month in Egypt:
African coaches are capable
One refreshing thing about this year’s Africa Cup of Nations is that two indigenous coaches will face off in the final.
Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi and Senegal’s Aliou Cissé have distinguished themselves in the tournament with some tactical masterclasses.
For so long, the perception has been that African coaches are not up there, or are simply not good enough.
However, the performance of Djamel Belmadi and Aliou Cissé proves that the continent still has capable coaches.
24-team expansion paid off
Prior to this year’s tournament, one of the most dominant topics centred around discussions on the expansion.
People had gotten used to the 16-team tournament and harboured doubts that increasing it to 24 would dilute the competition.
However, once the AFCON kicked off, it was clear that those theories were flawed. In fact, this tournament will go down as one of the most competitive in recent years.
The fairy-tale rides of minnows like Madagascar and Benin completely justified the expansion of the AFCON to a 24-team tournament.
Egypt’s organisation was top-notch
Big, big credit to Egypt. The North African country organised one of the most spectacular tournaments in recent memory.
Despite being announced as hosts in January – replacing the unprepared Cameroon – Egypt still managed to put up a good show.
From the opening ceremony, the treatment of flying supporters, security and everything else, this was simply top-notch organisation.
The only downside was with stadium attendances, but even that improved once the tournament reached the latter stages.
Africa not yet ready for VAR
Rating the 2019 AFCON, it would be fair to give an 80% or 85%, as refereeing was generally better than in previous tournaments.
However, there are still problems when it comes to the implementation of VAR in Africa’s flagship international tournament.
Most referees are still lacking in terms of training and to have to be directed on which decision to take, by a third party, doesn’t look right.
If there’s one thing this AFCON taught us, it is that referees on the continent are not yet ready and need more learning to be able to handle VAR.
Algeria, Senegal are worthy finalists
Football can sometimes be a cruel sport, in the sense that it is not all the time that the deserving team wins.
However, we can all agree that Algeria and Senegal have earned their places in the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
These two have been the best throughout the tournament, dominating and conquering their opponents with some form of swagger.
Algeria has not won the AFCON since 1990, while Senegal has never won it, with Teranga Lions’ closest being a final berth in 2002.
Whatever happens on Friday, the AFCON will produce a worthy champion.