Ranking the 5 Best Landmark Moments in Africa Cup of Nations History

Ranking the 5 Best Landmark Moments in Africa Cup of Nations History

Jarryd Westerdale
updated at January 8, 2024 at 9:25 AM
In this article:
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
  • The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations begins in Ivory Coast on Friday, January 5
  • Landmark moments in the competition have shaped nations and defined careers
  • The competition began with just four teams and has now swelled to an impressive 24

The footballing senses are tingling with African showpiece anticipation.

As Ivory Coast prepares to welcome the continent, memories of past glories and momentous occasions fill the mind.

The AFCON's legacy has been built on decades of hard work that has crowned champions and left many with shattered dreams.

Seydou Keita, AFCON, Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt, South Africa, Ivory Coast.
Seydou Keita's great Malian comeback and Egypt's treble winners are ranked among the great AFCON moments. Photos: @MickyJnr_ and @PheonixSportsgh.
Source: Twitter

Sports Brief looks in AFCON's rearview mirror at the landmark moments along the 66-year-long road.

Ranking 5 great AFCON landmark moments

5. Eight-goal thriller in Angola

The opening match has the potential to set the tone for the tournament ahead. The 2010 edition was explosive, beginning on the first evening between Angola and Mali.

The hosts earned an early 2-0 lead and looked to have the game secured in the 74th minute when Manucho slotted Angola's fourth unanswered goal.

Seydou Keita scrambled home a consolation goal for Mali with 12 minutes to go, before Freddie Kanoute added scoreline respectability in the 88th minute.

Mali sensed something special and Angola allowed themselves to be too open, unable to keep the ball. Keita got his second, unmarked at the back post with a minute to go before Mustapha Yatabare silenced a shellshocked Luanda.

Here is hoping the 2023 opener between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau is as eventful.

4. South Africa's debut AFCON 96 win

Sport is interwoven into the fabric of the South African consciousness and that unbreakable stitching was threaded in the 1990's.

The scenes of the international symbol of unity, President Nelson Mandela lifting the trophy alongside Neil Tovey will forever fill South African hearts with pride.

Although it can never be repeated for cultural and national significance, each AFCON the public holds its breath, begging for a repeat.

3. Chipolopolo rising in tribute

19 years earlier, Zambia's footballing heroes tragically perished in a plane crash in Gabon en route to a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Senegal.

Chipolopolo rebuilt and the next generation took centre stage in the very city where their predecessors met their fate. After defeating Sudan and Ghana in the quarter and semi-finals respectively, they faced Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast.

The final ended goalless, leaving the winner to be decided by the 12-yard lottery. Rainford Kalaba had a chance to win it after Kennedy Mweene saved Kolo Toure's effort.

Kalaba skyed his chance but Gervinho gave Zambia a second chance as he pushed his spot-kick wide. Stoppila Sunzu would not allow the moment to pass him by, converting to raise the AFCON trophy into the Libreville heavens.

2. Egyptian treble

For a nation with an unflattering FIFA World Cup record, Egypt have dominated the Africa Cup of Nations. Winners in 1957, 1959, 1986 and 1998, their best era of dominance was in the first decade of the millennium.

Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana have won the competition back-to-back, but the Pharaohs are the only team to win three consecutive AFCONs, beating Ivory Coast in 2006, Cameroon in 2008 and Ghana in 2010.

1. The inaugural AFCON

Every great river that pours into the ocean begins as a small trickle from a remote source.

Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and South Africa dreamt up the idea and hosted the first tournament in 1957. Despite being CAF founders, South Africa were banned from the competition due to wanting to send an all-white team to Sudan.

The four-team, straight knockout was meant to see South Africa play Ethophia, who ultimately received a bye into the final. Egypt beat Sudan in their semi-before beating the East Africans 4-0 in the final.

Raafat Attia scored AFCON's first-ever goal, fittingly from 12 years, while Mohamed Diab Al-Attar banged in the competition's first hat-trick in the final.

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Where are the 1996 AFCON winners now?

Sports Brief previously compiled a report listing the status of the players who lifted the 1996 AFCON title.

South Africa's debut Africa Cup of Nations squad continues to play a pivotal role in the country's football.

These mythic players are a variety of outstanding coaches, television pundits, and motivational speakers.

Jarryd Westerdale photo
Jarryd Westerdale
Jarryd Westerdale (based in Johannesburg) joined Sports Brief after four years in the community journalism sphere. He is a two-time Alet Roux Award winner and was a finalist in multiple categories at the Forum of Community Journalism Excellence Awards.