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Africa Cup of Nations: A to Z of dramatic tournament

Ivory Coast forward Sebastien Haller scored the decisive goal for the hosts in Sunday's final to win a memorable Africa Cup of Nations (FRANCK FIFE)
Ivory Coast forward Sebastien Haller scored the decisive goal for the hosts in Sunday's final to win a memorable Africa Cup of Nations (FRANCK FIFE)

A goal glut, shocks galore, a Moroccan red-carded twice, an astonishing comeback by hosts Ivory Coast to win Sunday's final after two group losses. The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations had it all.

Here, AFP Sport recalls alphabetically some of the drama from a 24-nation tournament regarded by many observers as the most exciting since the event debuted in 1957 in Sudan with just three teams.

A

Quarter-finalists Angola were a revelation under coach Pedro Goncalves, winning three matches in a row having failed to achieve more than one victory at a time in eight previous appearances.

B

AFCON-winning coach Djamel Belmadi was fired after Algeria flopped, with a loss to minnows Mauritania leading to a first-round exit for the Riyad Mahrez-captained side.

C

Champions Ivory Coast started the final with three players based in Saudi Arabia, two each in England, Germany and Turkey, and one each in France and Italy.

D

Democratic Republic of Congo coach Sebastien Desabre set a minimum target of a quarter-finals place and went one stage further with a hard-working team well led by centre-back Chancel Mbemba.

E

Energy-sapping conditions forced water breaks in each half of matches, with many kicking off in 36 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) heat and high humidity.

F

Former international Emerse Fae replaced sacked Ivory Coast coach Jean-Louis Gasset after the group stage without ever having been in charge of a senior team and guided them to the title.

G

A record 119 goals for a 24-team AFCON tournament were scored in the Ivory Coast -- 17 more than in Egypt five years ago -- at an average of 2.28 per match.

H

Paris Saint-Germain star Achraf Hakimi missed a penalty as shock 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco bowed out in the round of 16 after a 2-0 defeat by South Africa.

I

A hamstring injury midway through a second-round group match against Ghana forced Egypt talisman Mohamed Salah out of the tournament. Without him, the Pharaohs made a last-16 exit.

J

A private jet took Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana to the AFCON, but Cameroon coach Rigobert Song was not impressed by his late arrival and used him only once in four matches.

K

West Ham star Mohammed Kudus could not prevent a second straight disastrous campaign by Ghana, whose first-round departure led to former Premier League manager Chris Hughton being axed.

L

Ademola Lookman played a key role as eventual runners-up Nigeria reached an eighth AFCON final, scoring twice against Cameroon and the winner against Angola in knockout matches.

M

Sadio Mane and Senegal made an ultimately disappointing title defence. After a perfect three-win group record, they lost a last-16 tie on penalties to resurgent Ivory Coast.

N

Emilio Nsue,a 34-year-old who plays in the Spanish third division, scored a hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau, the first at an AFCON since Moroccan Soufiane Alloudi in 2008.

O

Reigning African Player of the Year Victor Osimhen may have scored only once for runners-up Nigeria, but his work rate in searing heat and constant harrying of defenders won rave reviews.

P

Some Premier League players, including Yves Bissouma of Mali and Dango Ouattara of Burkina Faso, did not have the expected impact due to illness and injury.

Q

Despite a humiliating 4-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast supporters queued from 0400 for tickets to watch the last-16 clash with Senegal in Yamoussoukro.

R

Moroccan Sofyan Amrabat was red-carded twice against South Africa -- firstly after two yellow cards then, following a VAR review, he was shown a straight red for a last-defender foul.

S

South Africa, whose starting line-ups included nine local-based players, exceeded expectations under Belgian coach Hugo Broos by finishing third.

T

Former champions Tunisia were among the biggest disappointments as they failed to win and scored only once, leading to coach Jalel Kadri quitting after a first-round exit.

U

There were many upsets with seven of the FIFA top 10-ranked African teams -- Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Burkina Faso -- failing to reach the quarter-finals.

V

Rui Vitoria of Egypt was among seven coaches sacked for poor results or controversial comments. Under the Portuguese, the Pharaohs failed to win any of four group and knockout matches.

W

South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams broke Cape Verde hearts by saving four of their five kicks in a penalty shootout after a goalless quarter-final.

X

Several Ivory Coast players, including Seko Fofana, Franck Kessie, Oumar Diakite and Sebastien Haller twice, shared the x-factor role during an amazing recovery to win the tournament.

Y

Reigning African Young Player of the Year Lamine Camara scored a superb goal as Senegal kicked off with a 3-0 win over the Gambia, but he made little subsequent impact.

Z

Back at the AFCON after three consecutive failed qualifying campaigns, Avram Grant-coached Zambia failed to sparkle and two points was not enough to take them beyond the first round.

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