5 big jaw-dropping moments from AFCON 2021

From big boys being eliminated to a defender playing as a goalkeeper

TOPSHOT - Burkina Faso football supporters are seen ahead of the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football tournament at Stade d'Olembé in Yaounde on January 9, 2022. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 has been a delight for football lovers. Senegal dispatched Egypt on penalties in Sunday's AFCON final to claim their first continental title.

However, that wasn't the highlight of AFCON. The tournament has seen a number of incidents that surprised the entire world.

From referees making huge blunders to debutants shocking the big boys, let’s have a look at the top five moments of the tournament.

Sierra Leone's Mohamed Kamara man of the match performance against Algeria

Defending AFCON champions Algeria were held to a goalless draw with minnows Sierra Leone, with goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara taking the headlines.

His heroics between the sticks saw his side earn a superb point and clean sheet, and to little surprise, the stopper celebrated the result as if were a victory at full-time.

The 22-year-old was later named the man of the match in the surprise stalemate, thanks to a brave display which saw him frustrate one of the tournament's favourites.

Sierra Leone are playing in their first Cup of Nations since 1996 and only their third ever, while heavyweights Algeria before the tournament were unbeaten since 2018.

Referee Janny Sikazwe blunder during Mali vs Tunisia match

Mali and Tunisia's AFCON game finished in chaos after the referee first signalled for full-time on 85 minutes, then ended the match when the clock showed 89 minutes and 47 seconds.

Tunisia coach Mondher Kebaier and his technical staff raced on to the field to confront referee Janny Sikazwe after his final whistle consigned them to a 1-0 defeat in Group F.

Twenty minutes later, after Mali manager Mohamed Magassouba's post-match press conference had started, tournament organisers ordered the game to be played to a conclusion.

However, in more farcical scenes, Tunisia's players did not return to the field and Mali were declared winners.

Speaking to Zambian media on his arrival back in the country, Sikazwe said the impact of the weather in Limbe was the reason for his erratic performance in the second half.

"The doctors told me my body was not cooling down. It would have been just a little time before [I would have gone] into a coma, and that would have been the end," he said.

Comoros name defender in goal against Cameroon

Debutants Comoros stole the hearts of the football world courtesy of the nation’s display en route to a last-16 exit from AFCON.

A straightforward victory for Cameroon was widely predicted ahead of kick-off, with the uphill battle facing Comoros having been added to ever further by the fact that defender Chaker Alhadhur was forced to start in between the sticks.

This came with all three of the country’s goalkeepers, owing to a combination of Covid-19 and injury, having been absent.

An injury to first-choice goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina was followed up by back-ups Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini testing positive for COVID-19.

Tournament rules state sides must play if they have 11 fit players, even if no recognised goalkeeper is available, and Comoros were forced to name an outfield player in goal against Cameroon.

Comoros lost the match by 2-1 to the hosts, but their makeshift goalkeeper Alhadhur won heart with his incredible double save during the match.

Big boys, Ghana and Algeria eliminated

Four-time champion Ghana was eliminated in the group stage at AFCON with a 3-2 loss to tournament debutant Comoros.

Ghana's loss came only two days after defending champion Algeria was beaten by Equatorial Guinea for one of the biggest upsets in African Cup history.

In a tumultuous game, Ghana fell behind in the fourth minute, had captain Andre Ayew harshly sent off in the 25th, and was 2-0 down in the 61st.

The Ghanaians leveled with two goals in 13 minutes late in the game, only to concede again when Ahmed Mogni swept in his second in the 85th minute to give Comoros undoubtedly its biggest football moment ever.

It sent Ghana home at the bottom of Group C with a draw and two losses and its worst performance ever at the African Cup.

Ghana is a traditional power of African football and has made at least the semifinals in six of the last seven African Cups and was last dumped out in the group stage in 2006.

Algeria on the other hand came into the tournament on a run of 34 games unbeaten as, by general consent, the best team in the continent.

The only real doubt about them was the habitual struggles of north African sides outside north Africa; Egypt in 2008 and 2010 remain the only north African country to win a Cup of Nations south of the Sahara.

Having been seeded as the top side in their group and with the third-best FIFA ranking in the tournament behind Senegal and Morocco, Djamel Belmadi's side were expected to make easy work of their path to the knockout stages.

Yet a goalless opening draw with Sierra Leone set the tone for an unlikely fall from grace, with Algeria then edged by Equatorial Guinea, one of the lowest-ranked sides in the tournament, thanks to Esteban Obiang's second-half finish in a 1-0 defeat.

The result meant that they needed to produce a win in their final group game to have any chance of qualification, either as one of the top-two sides or as one of the four best-ranked third-place finishers - only for Ivory Coast to ensure that their road to redemption came to a juddering halt.

Lowest ranked nation, Gambia reach Quarter Finals

Debutants The Gambia booked their place in the quarter-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations as Musa Barrow's goal gave them a famous 1-0 victory over Guinea.

The Gambia went unbeaten through the group stage, beating Mauritania and 2004 champions Tunisia, and Tom Saintfiet's side pulled off another giant-killing in Bafoussam.

The Gambia's lowly position in the world rankings is underlined by the fact they began their Nations Cup qualifying campaign in the preliminary round, where they needed penalties to beat Djibouti back in October 2019.

Gambia weren’t there to merely make up the numbers, though. Ranked 151st in FIFA’s rankings before the tournament kicked off, the Scorpions drew with Mali and beat Tunisia on the way to topping their group.

In the Quarter Finals, a 2-0 defeat in Douala against hosts, Cameroon would see the fairy tale end there, but it marked a monumental achievement.

More from category

Recommended articles

Indomitable Lions of Cameroon lose again, end Int'l break without a goal

Indomitable Lions of Cameroon lose again, end Int'l break without a goal

'Sad Romance' - Mauro Icardi brands ex-wife Wanda Nara as 'Toxic' following split-up

'Sad Romance' - Mauro Icardi brands ex-wife Wanda Nara as 'Toxic' following split-up

VIDEO: Mali disgrace African continent as teammates exchange blows

VIDEO: Mali disgrace African continent as teammates exchange blows

Dillian Whyte slams Tyson Fury for calling off the Anthony Joshua boxing match

Dillian Whyte slams Tyson Fury for calling off the Anthony Joshua boxing match

Tyson Fury says Anthony Joshua heavyweight showdown is off here is why

Tyson Fury says Anthony Joshua heavyweight showdown is off here is why

Catch up with today's top trending football news

Catch up with today's top trending football news