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AFCON - Football: Top AFCON moments

In a world where we have easy access to endless amounts of information and the option to watch sport from around the globe at the click of a button, the Africa Cup of Nations still sits somewhere between the modern international game and the pre-digital era.

Major international tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championships used to be a curiosity because there weren't easy ways to find details about each nation, every player, and every stadium.

Even now, AFCON is a halfway house in that regard. For every household name such as Mo Salah, there is a Mohamed Kamara, the little-known Sierra Leonean goalkeeper who drew praise for a series of saves against Algeria in the group stage of the current competition.

The tournament has become known for emotional scenes, underdogs punching above their weight and the occasional moment of madness.

Surprise hosts claim debut victory

The 1996 Africa Cup of Nations featured a troubled build up. Kenya were stripped of hosting duties after being deemed unfit for purpose and Nigeria withdrew due to political pressure from then-dictator Sani Abacha with the tournament eventually going to South Africa.

Bafana Bafana, fresh from their reintroduction to global sport following the abolishment of apartheid, won their first two group-stage matches on home turf as they advanced to the knockout stage.

Marshalled by Leeds legend Lucas Radebe at centre-half, they stormed past Algeria and Ghana before Wolves's Mark Williams struck a brace in the final to see the hosts lift the trophy on their tournament debut.

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Mali's remarkable comeback performance

The 2010 edition kicked off in unbelievable circumstances as Mali recovered from 4-0 down to earn a draw against hosts Angola despite only scoring their first goal of the contest with 11 minutes of normal time remaining.

Goals from Flavio (two), Gilberto and Manchester United flop Manucho fired Angola into a seemingly insurmountable lead which was followed by an incredible period of play which saw goals from Seydou Keita and Freddie Kanoute narrow the deficit before Keita struck again injury time and Mustapha Yatabare made it 4-4.

Angola would brush off the setback, claiming four more points to advance as group winners while Mali were eliminated after finishing third. Perhaps they put too much energy into those 11 minutes?

Zambian squad makes a nation proud

While South Africa's story was triumphant, Zambia's 2012 victory was all the more emotional due to a disastrous event which occurred almost two decades before.

In 1993, 18 members of Zambia's national team were killed when their plane crashed into the Atlantic shortly after taking off from Libreville, Gabon - they had been travelling to Senegal to contest a World Cup qualifier.

Zambia's remaining players defied the odds less than a year later, reaching the final of AFCON 1994 where they were beaten by Nigeria, and they then went one better in 2012, pulling off a remarkable triumph as unfancied underdogs, beating Ivory Coast on penalties in the final in Libreville, of all places.

Head coach Herve Renard, the French coach who is a popular and recognisable figure in African football, would go on to dedicate the victory to the 18.

Referee sparks chaos

The Africa Cup of Nations has always tended to lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous and the rescheduled 2021 edition has proved no different with a piece of bizarre refereeing hitting the headlines worldwide.

With Mali beating Tunisia 1-0, Zimbabwean official Janny Sikazwe erroneously blew the full-time whistle after 85 minutes, sparking a furious reaction from Tunisia's players and coaching staff.

The game restarted and Mali's El Bilal Toure was sent off soon after, and Sikazwe then blew his whistle again without adding any injury-time, that's despite the match featuring a number of breaks in play for two penalties, multiple VAR checks and seven substitutions.

Some 20 minutes after the 'final whistle', CAF officials intervened, asking for the match to be resumed. Mali's players returned to the pitch but Tunisia were nowhere to be seen, refusing to continue the contest in protest and conceding the 1-0 defeat in the process.

Comoros put an end to Ghana's hopes

Four-time champions Ghana remain a powerhouse in African football and were runner-ups in the Africa Cup of Nations as recently as 2015 but the Black Stars had no answer when they clashed with minnows Comoros in Group C last week.

The tournament debutants took the early lead through El Fardou Ben Nabouhane and went 2-0 up when Ahmed Mogni scored midway through the second half.

Ghana battled back to level the scores but Mogni struck again with five minutes remaining, a result which would see Comoros progress as a best third-placed team. Their reward? A last 16 clash with hosts Cameroon.

Where we stand heading into the knockout stage

The knockout phase of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations starts on Sunday and the tournament has a wide-open look to it with 16 teams still in the hunt.

Senegal, boasting Premier League class in Chelsea's Edouard Mendy and Liverpool's Sadio Mane among others, are 4/1 to claim the title for the first time but they did not impress in the group stage, topping their section despite scoring just one goal.

Hosts Cameroon have looked altogether more dangerous, scoring seven goals to advance as Group A winners, and a tie with Comoros provides them with one of the easier routes to the quarters. The five-time winners are 4/1 to make it six.

Nigeria are 9/2 to claim the continental crown for a fourth time. Morocco are 13/2 while their possible quarter-finals opponents Ivory Coast, are on offer at 7/1.

Burkina Faso are 6/4 to beat 12/5 shots Gabon in the first of Sunday's last 16 matches while Nigeria are 4/6 to see off Tunisia, who are 11/2 to win in 90 minutes.

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