Top 5 AFCON games in history – Classic finals: Will 2023 join the list of classic finales

AFCON 2023 has not disappointed with huge amounts of drama, upsets and classic games pleasing an entire continent and people all over the world.

The final, which will be between Nigeria and Ivory Coast on February 11, will certainly produce a raucous home atmosphere with the host nation looking to lift the trophy for the first time since 2015.

AFCON is one of the most entertaining tournaments in world football, although a lot of the finals have been very close and tight encounters with teams unwilling to give an edge. In fact, 12 of the 33 finals have been decided after extra time. So, we are going to go through the top five AFCON finals of all time and see what could be in store for this weekend's finale.

Kelechi Iheanacho's spot kick put Nigeria through to the AFCON 2023 final. (Photo by Icon Sport)

Top 5 AFCON games in history

Zambia 0-0 Ivory Coast (8-7 penalties) – 2012

Ivory Coast entered the 2012 AFCON final as overwhelming favourites having won every single game in the lead-up to the finale as well as having not conceded a single goal. However, AFCON doesn't abide by form guides or what is expected to happen as Zambia won their first and only ever AFCON trophy.

Ivory Coast did manage to maintain their unbeaten record in normal time and their defence managed to go the whole tournament without conceding a goal, but they fell at the hands of a dreaded penalty shoot-out.

It was a stunning start to the shoot-out with 14 consecutive penalties being scored before both sides missed one after another. Then, knowing he had to score to keep Ivory Coast in the game, Gervinho failed to find the back of the net, sending an entire nation wild and into a whirlwind of celebrations they probably thought would never happen.

Top 5 AFCON finals in history
Zambia have won just the one AFCON – Photo by Icon sport

Ghana 3-2 Tunisia (AET) – 1965

Ghana were looking to upset the party back in 1965 when they took on host nation Tunisia in the AFCON final. It was looking promising for the hosts, however, with just over 10 minutes left to play they were leading 2-1 having initially gone behind early in the match.

However, a goal from Osei Kofi sent the final into extra time and with 16,000 fanatic Tunisia fans praying for a win, it was Ghana who took the initiative and went ahead. Frank Odoi scored his second goal of the match just six minutes into extra time and that's how the match finished.

Tunisia would have to wait until 2004 for their first and still only AFCON trophy, whereas Ghana have become a dominant force on the continent winning the competition four times.

Ghana have not won an AFCON since 1982 and crashed out in the group stages this year – Photo by Icon Sport

Cameroon 2-1 Egypt – 2017

Both of these sides had been waiting a very long time to lift the AFCON trophy. Cameroon's last win was in 2002, while Egypt hadn't gotten their hands on the trophy since 2010, so a worthy champion was awaiting.

Arsenal's Mohammed Elneny put his country in front after just over 20 minutes, although they were pegged back right on the hour mark. It looked set to be yet another AFCON final heading for extra time and potentially penalties until Vincent Aboubakar stepped up.

The Cameroonian legend who was subbed on at half-time when his country was behind, smashed home on the 88th minute to hand Cameroon their fifth and most recent trophy.

Egypt's Mohammed Salah
Egypt are the most successful country when it comes to AFCON – Photo by Icon Sport

Ethiopia 4-2 Egypt (AET) – 1962

This was just the third edition of AFCON and the first one to ever not be decided inside of 90 minutes. Ethiopia featured in the very first AFCON final but were beaten 4-0 by Egypt, however, they were to get their revenge in their backyard.

Ethiopia were watched on by 30,000 of their own supporters whom they duly rewarded. The host nation fell behind twice in regular time but when it came to the business stage of the game, goals from Mengistu Worku and Iatlo Vassallo sent the crowd wild.

Ethiopia have never been back to an AFCON final since 1962, but the memories still live long.

Ethiopia played in two of the first three AFCON finals – Photo by Icon sport

Cameroon 2-2 Nigeria (4-3 penalties) – 2000

With 60,000 fans in attendance, this was the perfect way to kick off the millennium, two giants facing off in the final of AFCON. Nigeria were confident of picking up their third trophy, and so were their excited supporters.

However, Cameroon had other ideas when they stormed into a 2-0 lead. Samuel Eto'O scored a brilliant free-kick before setting up Henri Patrick M'Boma just five minutes later. All the odds were stacked against Nigeria but Raphael Chukwu halved the deficit right on the stroke of half-time.

Then, Jay-Jay Okocha scored the equaliser only two minutes into the second half and created a carnival atmosphere. It would then see the game to penalties where three were missed in total.

Missed penalties from Nwankwo Kanu and Victor Ikpeba were fatal because just three spot kicks later, including a winning one from Rigobert Song, saw Cameroon break hearts all over Nigeria.

Nigeria will be looking to upset the home crowd of Ivory Coast on Sunday – Photo by Icon Sport

Betting trends for AFCON finals


Given that five of the last 11 AFCON finals have finished 0-0 after extra-time and ended up going to penalties, this could be yet another very close encounter, especially given how talented both squads are.

Both sides have been in the wilderness when it comes to winning AFCON trophies, Nigeria haven't won one since 2013, while Ivory Coast have been waiting since 2015 to taste some form of success, so neither will be keen to give away an inch to the other team.

Nigeria to score first

These two sides have already met this tournament back in the group stages and it was the Super Eagles who came out on top winning 1-0.

Nigeria have scored at least one goal in all of their matches this season, whereas Ivory Coast have drawn a blank in two separate games against the Super Eagles and Equatorial Guinea respectively. Nigeria have been in fine form the entire tournament so it would be unwise to back against them in any form on Sunday.

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Aaron Hindhaugh

Aaron is a multi-skilled sports content writer and media professional. He is a specialist in both Men's and Women's football, along with golf.