The last time Algeria reached the Africa Cup of Nations final, Riyad Mahrez wasn’t yet born. The Manchester City star’s stunning stoppage time free-kick against Nigeria in Sunday’s semifinal booked the Fennec Foxes a spot in the final for the first time in 29 years.
Algeria also beat Nigeria on that day in 1990, winning 1-0 in front of 105,000 fans on home soil in a match that has gone down in Algerian footballing folklore.
It remains the nation’s only AFCON triumph to date and for a country with the pedigree and talent that Algeria boasts, the turbulent intervening years have made for a painful wait to once again reach the pinnacle of African football.
“We are so happy to be in the final because it is something unbelievable,” Mahrez said after his dramatic match-winning display. “It is a great feeling.
“We have been very good in this tournament. We have scored 12 goals and conceded only two but definitely this game (vs. Nigeria) has given us more confidence to play the final. We are capable of winning it.
When Algeria take on Senegal in Friday’s final, it will be the second time they have faced off in the competition.
The Fennec Foxes got the better of their opponents in a tight group stage match, edging past Senegal with a narrow 1-0 win.
“We played Senegal in the group stages and we know they are a very good team,” Mahrez said. “It will be a tough final.
“Always, even if it is another team, finals are always tough. But for Senegal, we know their strengths and weaknesses and we will go to give them a good game.”
The semifinal win sparked jubilant celebrations from Algerian communities around the world. In France, fans took to the Champs-Elysees in Paris and the streets of Lyon and Marseille and partied late into the night.