AFCON 2021: The Underdogs Sierra Leone Upsets Defending Champions Algeria, Goalkeeper Mohamed N Kamara Made History In His First AFCON Appearance

Leone Stars of Sierra Leone execute the best performance we have seen at the ongoing African Cup of Nations, so far. It was a sterling performance by the West African nation against the Desert Foxes and defending champions Algeria, as Sierra Leone made their first African Cup of Nations appearance in 26 years! Goalkeeper Mohamed N Kamara (Fabianski), 22, was the star of the match, with a stunning performance against the likes of Riyadh Mahrez.

I’m happy with the result (0-0) even though we attacked this game to win it. We had the reigning African champions Algeria, a great and beautiful team, but we stuck to our strategy which worked. I don’t want to highlight a single player even if the goalkeeper (Mohamed N Kamara) was elected man of the match. This is a collective performance and we will continue to do so. We have to fight and grow this group. And since our arrival, we have been working to move forward. There’s no point in having a great game today (this Tuesday) and letting the other games slip away, it’s at the end of the tournament that we’ll know if we’re the surprise. We take game after game. – Coach John Keister, Sierra Leone Coach

Sierra Leone, seen as underdogs by many football pundits and football loving fans, were thorn in the flesh against the favorites, Algeria. Even though Algeria may have had 66% of the total ball possession, Sierra Leone were dominant in other areas a well. The Leone Stars of Sierra Leone won 76 duels, had 56.579% duels success rate, had 16 aerial duels, 81.25%  aerial duels won, made more forward passes than Algeria with over 70% forward pass percentage, won 13 tackles in the defence (Algeria 11 tackles), made more clearances in the defence (24) with Algeria 9,  had more interceptions in the defence (11) more than Algeria (4), made more recoveries in the defence (53) more than Algeria (47), made more recoveries in the midfield (18) more than Algeria (16).

I can’t say that I’m satisfied, the objective being to enter the competition well with the maximum number of points, but it wasn’t possible. But it’s not just the conditions, the heat and humidity. We had a brave opponent in front who left little room. And as the game went on, he had more motivation and reduced the spaces. In the second half, it is true that we had a lot more chances but we must also salute the performance of the opponent. And as I said this AFCON, it will be difficult for everyone. – Djamel Belmadi, Algeria coach

Tournament favorites Algeria had a couple of chances that could have given them the lead in the second half, but the goalkeeper for Sierra Leone, Mohamed N. Kamara came up big against the Desert Foxes. The 22-year-old Mohamed N. Kamara known by many as ‘Fabianski’ made eight saves against Algeria, the most by a goalkeeper without conceding at AFCON since Ovono for Equatorial Guinea against Congo DR in 2015. According to Opta’s expected goals model, Kamara prevented 1.3 goals. The goalkeeper also wins the Man of The Match award becoming the first goalkeeper to win the award at the ongoing tournament.

The goalkeeper was not only the star of the match. The likes of Steven Caulker, former Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City, Southampton, Liverpool, and Cardiff City defender ‘George Floyd’ed’ Riyadh Mahrez and co. Whilst Kevin Wright bodied Riyadh Mahrez from start to finish making Mahrez to look like Nicolas Pepe with a touch of Sead Kolasinac.

The player ratings don’t lie; Sierra Leone were outstanding and they gave us ‘game of the tournament performance.’ Today’s performance is a sign of that we will be seeing more upsets from underdogs against the tournament’s favorites.

Sierra Leone will next face Ivory Coast while Equatorial Guinea will face Algeria.

Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean content writer, author, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream, an online platform for inspiring, positive and compelling African stories. Contact: WhatsApp: +23276211583