Extra-time goals by substitute Amr Sayoud and Yacine Brahimi gave Algeria a 2-0 win over neighbours Tunisia in the FIFA Arab Cup final at the Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday.
Algeria added the Arab crown to the Africa Cup of Nations title they won in 2019 and will defend in Cameroon next month.
The 31-year-old Sayoud made his international debut in Algeria’s opening game of the tournament but did not play again until coming on just past the hour mark in the final.
His thunderous 99th-minute shot gave Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen no chance and turned Sayoud into an instant national hero.
Brahimi scored on a breakaway with the last kick of the game as Tunisia pushed everyone up for a last-gasp corner and he raced away unchecked after the ball was cleared by the Algeria defence.
Both countries were playing without their European-based players and looked tired at the end of the 18-day tournament but kept pressing for goals against the backdrop of a raucous atmosphere delivered by a capacity 60,456 crowd.
The tournament was designed as a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup.
It has been the first time fans have packed into some of the stadiums the Gulf Arab state built in preparation for the global showpiece tournament.
Thousands of fan-filled cars decorated with Algerian, Tunisian and Qatari flags headed north along the desert expressway leading to Al Bayt stadium, around 50km north of the Qatari capital.
The stadium, which resembles a giant black and white Bedouin tent like those traditionally used by nomadic tribes in the Arab gulf, will be the venue for the World Cup’s opening match.
Tunisia struck the crossbar through Bilel Ifa in the 14th minute and Algeria goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi had to tip Naim Sliti’s effort over the top in a bright start for the underdogs.
But Algeria should have led when Tayeb Mezaini had the goal at his mercy in the 21st minute but put his effort wide.
Algeria had the better of the possession but the best opportunity of the second half went Tunisia’s way, as Seifeddine Jaziri led a last-minute counter-attack but put his shot into side netting.
Algeria finally made the breakthrough in extra time, although they needed more saves from Mbolhi to keep their lead intact.
A few hours earlier, Qatar and Egypt faced off in the third-place match, both teams seeking consolation after their semi-final elimination on Wednesday.
The host nation won the bronze medal 5-4 on penalties, after a goalless 90 minutes.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that after nine rounds and two weeks of competition, the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 which kicked off on Nov. 30 came to an end on Saturday.
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