Biggest shocks in Africa Cup of Nations history

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In the early days of the Africa Cup of Nations there were only eight finalists, right up to 1990 when the field was increased to 12.

It meant little opportunity for smaller countries to get to the finals, never mind upsetting the odds. The field was increased to 16 teams in South Africa in 1996 and 24 at the 2019 edition in Egypt, which has meant more David v Goliath clashes and the potential for upsets.

With the latest edition to kick off in the Ivory Coast on Saturday, we look back at some of the greatest shocks in Cup of Nations history.

1974: Zambia got through the group stage on their tournament debut and into the semifinal, where they upset defending champions Congo. It was goalless at halftime but Bernard Chanda scored a second-half hat-trick as Zambia won 4-2.

1986: Senegal had not qualified for eight successive editions when they finally made it to the tournament in Egypt and, in the opening match in Cairo, beat the host nation with a goal midway through the second half from Theirno Youm. Egypt bounced back to top the group and win the tournament.

1994: Hosts Tunisia were 2-0 down at halftime, had a player sent off and had fired their coach Youssef Zouaoui after losing their opening game to Mali. They had to beat Zaire in their next game to go through but drew and left the tournament early without any home interest, meaning they had to ship soldiers in to fill the stands.

2004: In Tunisia again 10 years on, Rwanda were shock qualifiers and although both they and the Democratic Republic of Congo had already been eliminated after two matches, the 1-0 win for the small east African country over their giant neighbours, courtesy of a second-half strike from Said Abed Makasi saw them leave the tournament on a high note.

2006: After losing their opening two games, Zimbabwe upset Ghana 2-1 in Ismailia to knock the Black Stars out as well.

2019: New boys Madagascar went all the way to the quarterfinals, prompting the country’s president to travel over and watch them, and their 2-0 success in Alexandria over Nigeria ensured they finished top of their first-round group.

2021: Defending champions Algeria were expected to be among the frontrunners again in Cameroon in a finals that were delayed to January 2022, but a shock 1-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea in the pool stages put paid to that. Esteban Obiang scored the only goal with 20 minutes remaining. Algeria exited bottom of their group with a single point from nine.

2021: Tiny Gambia are among the smallest nations in Africa, but claimed a mighty scalp when they defeated Tunisia 1-0 in their final pool game to advance to the round of 16. Ablie Jallow scored a 93rd minute winner.

2021: Ghana were unceremoniously dumped out of the Cup of Nations in Cameroon when they lost 3-2 to Comoros and finished bottom of their pool with a single point. Comoros led 2-0 past the hour-mark as El Fardou Ben Nabouhane and Ahmed Mogni scored. But the Black Stars drew the game level through Richmond Boakye and Alexander Djiku. The islanders had the last laugh though as Mogni netted a second five minutes from the end.

Source: Mzansi Football

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