Africa Cup of Nations 2015: Highs and lows
Tournament actually goes ahead
After three weeks of action in Equatorial Guinea, it is easy to forget the turmoil that overshadowed the build-up. Morocco had originally been set to host the tournament, but then asked for it to be delayed due to fears over the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) rejected that request and subsequently stripped Morocco of the tournament, as well as ejecting their national team from the competition. Having previously been barred from the event themselves for fielding an ineligible player in qualifying, Equatorial Guinea stepped in to take on hosting duties, while Morocco have subsequently been expelled from the next two tournaments.
Equatorial Guinea make it to the last four thanks to Javier Balboa's quarter-final heroics
Few could have predicted Equatorial Guinea's run to the last four following their turbulent preparations. A change of leadership at the country's football federation saw president Andres Jorge Mbomio sack head coach Andoni Goikoetxea and replace him with Argentine Esteban Becker just 11 days before the tournament was due to begin. However, the host nation progressed from Group A as runners-up, and produced a great escape to get past Tunisia in the quarter-finals. Ahmed Akaichi's goal looked to be sending the Tunisians into the semi-finals, but a controversial penalty award in stoppage time opened the door for Javier Balboa to pull level. Balboa then made himself a hero by firing in a thunderous free-kick in the 102nd minute, although Equatorial Guinea's challenge was ended by Ghana in the next round.
Goalkeeper Barry scores tournament-winning penalty
After a drab final went the full 120 minutes - including extra-time - without a goal being scored, Ghana and eventual champions the Ivory Coast were forced into a penalty shootout to determine the destination of the trophy. Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry had watched as attacking colleagues Wilfried Bony and Tallo Gadji failed to find the net with the country's opening two spot-kicks, and appeared in some distress - seemingly with cramp - on a number of occasions. The decider went to sudden death and, after all outfield players had had their turn, the onus fell on the two goalkeepers to go head-to-head with their opposite number from 12 yards. Barry kept out Ghana stopper Brimah Razak's effort, before recovering from another apparent fit of agony to fire his country to just their second AFCON title. A dramatic finish to what was an otherwise low-key final.
Crowd trouble mars hosts' semi-final
Equatorial Guinea's first appearance in an AFCON semi-final was overshadowed by events off the pitch during their clash with Ghana. Becker's men were eliminated courtesy of a 3-0 defeat, but the headlines were dominated by the crowd trouble that forced a lengthy suspension in play before the last-four match could be completed. Projectiles were aimed at Ghana officials and fans, who were forced onto the pitch in search of safety, with governing body CAF revealing 36 people were injured and 14 taken to hospital. Equatorial Guinea were subsequently fined $100,000 and ordered to pay the medical costs of the injured. The country's football federation had already had to pay $5,000 for the behaviour of fans at their quarter-final against Tunisia.
Mali draw the short straw
It is staggering to think that a tournament of AFCON's calibre still allows for teams to progress or be eliminated based on the drawing of lots. At one stage, it looked as though a number of knockout berths would be determined via the method this year, but ultimately, it was only the fates of Guinea and Mali that were left to chance after the pair ended the group stage with identical records. Fortune favoured the latter, but it could be the last we have seen of the lots - used for the first time since 1988 this year - with CAF confirming it will look into alternative tie-breakers for future tournaments.
Algeria disappoint after setting the standard at World Cup
Algeria headed to Equatorial Guinea as tournament favourites following their impressive display at last year's World Cup in Brazil, where they were one of only two African nations to reach the last 16. The other, Nigeria, failed to qualify for AFCON this time around, squandering the opportunity to defend the title they won in 2013. Drawn in arguably the toughest group in the competition, Algeria progressed as runners-up behind Ghana, but suffered a 3-1 defeat to the Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals. Coach Christian Gourcuff, who took over from Vahid Halilhodzic after the World Cup, knows Algerian fans will have expected better of his side, so will be keen to restore faith in his capabilities as quickly as possible.