The last time Algeria reached the Africa Cup of Nations final, Riyad Mahrez wasn’t yet born.
The Manchester City star’s stunning stoppage time free-kick against Nigeria in Sunday’s semifinal booked the Fennec Foxes a spot in the final for the first time in 29 years.
Algeria also beat Nigeria on that day in 1990, winning 1-0 in front of 105,000 fans on home soil in a match that has gone down in Algerian footballing folklore.
Algeria supporters could see their team lift a first AFCON trophy for 29 years.
It remains the nation’s only AFCON triumph to date and for a country with the pedigree and talent that Algeria boasts, the turbulent intervening years have made for a painful wait to once again reach the pinnacle of African football.
“We are so happy to be in the final because it is something unbelievable,” Mahrez said after his dramatic match-winning display. “It is a great feeling.
“We have been very good in this tournament. We have scored 12 goals and conceded only two but definitely this game (vs. Nigeria) has given us more confidence to play the final. We are capable of winning it.
When Algeria take on Senegal in Friday’s final, it will be the second time they have faced off in the competition.
Algeria supporters celebrated long into the night in Paris.
The Fennec Foxes got the better of their opponents in a tight group stage match, edging past Senegal with a narrow 1-0 win.
“We played Senegal in the group stages and we know they are a very good team,” Mahrez said. “It will be a tough final.
“Always, even if it is another team, finals are always tough. But for Senegal, we know their strengths and weaknesses and we will go to give them a good game.”
The semifinal win sparked jubilant celebrations from Algerian communities around the world. In France, fans took to the Champs-Elysees in Paris and the streets of Lyon and Marseille and partied late into the night.
Meanwhile, fans shut down roads in north and south London as celebrations even overshadowed those of England’s Cricket World Cup win just a couple of hours earlier.
‘This is a game for history’
Friday will be the fifth AFCON meeting between these two sides and Senegal will be hoping to do something they have not previous been able to achieve: Win.
Only once have the Lions of Teranga not tasted defeat against Algeria in the continent’s most prestigious competition, a 2-2 draw back in 2017.
But coach Aliou Cisse believes this generation of players — that includes Liverpool star forward Sadio Mane and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly — is better than the one he captained to the country’s first AFCON final 17 years ago.
Supporters in Dakar celebrate after Senegal won the AFCON semifinal against Tunisia.
“I feel very proud,” he said after the 1-0 extra time win against Tunisia in the semifinal. “We haven’t reached the final since 17 years. This is the fruit of a long-time preparation. Those players worked hard for five full years and now we get the fruit of this hard work.
“Football is always charming. This is a game for history. Pressure is a part of the game, it is a part of my work. I played football since I was 12, and had always felt the pressure since then.
“I am not thinking of the final now, I’m just happy that I made Senegal’s people happy.”
That final ended in a painful penalty shootout defeat to Cameroon but Cisse is confident his players, with who he has developed a close bond since taking up the job in 2015, can go one better.
However, they will have to do so without the leadership of Koulibaly, who misses out on his country’s biggest game through suspension.
Senegal fans are dreaming of a first ever AFCON triumph.
“I have unlimited trust in my players and I felt they want to achieve something, Cisse said. “They did all what is needed to win. This generation is better than the 2002 one. My players told me they will be better than us, and they did.
“My relationship with them is like father-sons. When I became their coach in 2015 I told them our target is to reach the FIFA World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations final. That was the way to convince Kalidou Koulibaly to play for Senegal instead of France. Now here we are”.
Uganda suffered a shock 2-0 away loss to South Sudan to bow out of the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations qualifiers in the first round 2-1 on aggregate.
Despites struggling to break down the opposition in the first leg before a late Mustafa Kizza penalty separated the two sides at Lugogo, many thought Uganda still had enough to reach the second round.
Coaches Wasswa Bossa and Charles Ayiekoh named unchanged lineup from the first leg team.
It included seven players from the team that defeated South Sudan 3-0 in Juba and 8-1 on aggregate in the Under-20 Africa qualifiers in April.
Saidi Keni, Mujuzi Musitafa, Geofrey Wasswa, Bashir Asiku, Julius Poloto, Allan Okello and Steven Mukwala all started for the Kobs team regarded as the future of the national senior team.
But South Sudan had different ideas scoring first through Michael Taku Peter for a seventh minute lead before Makueth Wol who plies his trade with Uganda Premier League side Mbarara scored late to hand his country an unlikely victory.
The result proved remarkable for South Sudan who only gained independence from the Republic of Sudan in 2011 and whose senior team cannot make it to Afcon 2019 after failing to record a point after five games.
They now progresses to the penultimate round of the qualifiers where Tunisia awaits.
Tunisia has topped Africa at position 22 in the latest FIFA rankings released by the world football governing body on Thursday.
The Tunisians, who have already qualified for next year’s AFCON in Cameroon, are followed by Senegal at 25, which has also qualified for the tournament.
Kenya rose two places to position 105 from the previous 107.
The Democratic Republic of Congo are out of the top 40 after losing 2-1 and drawing 1-1 against Zimbabwe in mid-October.
Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana are all down two places, at 47, 51 and 52, respectively.
From 56 last month , Burkina Faso now occupies position 57, while Egypt has moved up six places to 58. Ivory Coast completes the top 10 countries in Africa at position 64. They have jumped up two places.
Globally, Belgium is still on top while World champions France drop to 2nd place.
Brazil and Croatia maintained their 3rd and 4th position respectively. England has moved up one place to 5th and pushed Uruguay to 6th.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is expected to put his controversial plans for two new international soccer tournaments to a vote at Friday’s meeting of the body’s ruling council.
A spokesman for the governing body revealed this to Reuters on Wednesday.
However, with the World Leagues Forum, which represents 38 professional leagues, asking Infantino last week not to go for a vote and strong opposition within Europe, Friday’s FIFA council meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, could cause a major split.
Infantino revealed his plans in May for a new Global Nations League and a revamped Club World Cup which he says are backed by a ‘solid and serious’ group of investors willing to spend $25 billion over a 12-year cycle starting in 2021.
The European Leagues, which includes the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, and European football’s governing body UEFA are among several organisations unwilling to endorse the plans at this stage.
The new competitions and related commercial strategy feature on the agenda for the meeting and the FIFA spokesman told Reuters that there will be votes held on the proposals.
Cape Town – Jose Mourinho said that Romelu Lukaku is struggling for form and confidence after seeing his Manchester United side lose 1-0 to Juventus.
The Premier League club were second best for much of the Champions League tie where a Paulo Dybala goal settled the tie.
Lukaku has now not scored for eight games, but he had a tough task to get the better of Juve defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Even Mourinho had praise for the Italian defenders while admitting that Lukaku needs to raise his game.
After the game, the United boss told the press: “No criticism at all, a complete understanding the player is a fantastic pro that wants to give everything.
“But I have to agree his moment is not sweet, not just with the goals he is not scoring but in his confidence, movement, touch, he is not linking the game well with the team – but he’s our striker and he’s a good striker and a striker we believe in.
“Could I play (Marcus) Rashford there? But then I don’t have a winger because in this moment we are in this difficult situation.
“He (Lukaku) is a hard-working guy, is a good professional, but one day the goal will arrive and the confidence will be back.”
Lukaku last scored for United in a 2-1 win over Watford but netted a brace for Belgium in a 2-1 win over Switzerland two weeks ago.