Senegal and Egypt will dispute the African Cup of Nations Final

The final of the African Cup of Nations will be decided between Senegal, seeking its first title, and Egypt, the tournament's top winner.

The final of the African Cup of Nations will be decided between Senegal, seeking its first title, and Egypt, the tournament's top winner.

Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah

Photos: IG-sadiomaneofficiel, IG-mosalah

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón

Joy and a lot of color is what is always seen in the stands of the stadiums that host the African Cup of Nations. The 33rd edition that should have been played in 2021 was rescheduled for this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the smiles that this sport only gives were seen on the faces of those who attended Cameroonian territory from the first days of January for the great appointment. And it is that after arduous days of good soccer, the trophy will be decided between two favorite teams: Senegal and Egypt.

On the one hand we have Senegal whose journey through the cup has gone from less to more. They say that the third time is the charm and the Lions of the Terenga are confident that they will finally be able to lift their first title after losing the finals in 2002 and the most recent in 2019. For this they will have to continue betting on the leadership of Sadio Mané combined with the talent of other figures such as defender Kalidou Koulibaly or goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

In turn, Egypt had a much more complicated path where they had to get the caste of maximum champion of the contest. From the hand of Mo Salah, the pharaohs will seek to win their eighth title and thus completely forget about the fiasco that occurred in 2019 when they hosted the cup and fell in the round of 16. Also, two facts that are worth mentioning about them is that they were the team that won the first edition of the African Cup of Nations and also the only one to win three consecutive editions (2006, 2008 and 2010).

Here's a look at how Senegal and Egypt made it to the African Cup of Nations final. Who will win the "Liverpool duel" between Mané and Salah? Will the pharaohs be able to extend their rule on the continent or will the lions roar louder?

Senegal: a machine to be feared

With a squad full of players who shine in European soccer, Senegal are determined to win their first African Cup of Nations trophy at any cost. But it is no secret to anyone that a team with great figures is not always synonymous with victories, and precisely those led by Aliou Cissé have suffered more in this edition of the cup to reach the final.

Although everything seemed to indicate that the group rivals would not give them major problems, the truth of the matter is that Senegal experienced moments of anguish, doubt and despair during the first three days. The debut against Zimbabwe was more balanced than many expected, but it was not until the final minutes that they managed to corner the rival in their area, scoring an agonizing penalty goal through Sadio Mané at 90+7' for the 1- 0 definitive.

Starting winning and adding 3 points was a great relief for the team, mainly due to the lack of clarity they had had in front of the goal. However, on the next date against Guinea, the goal was closed completely to leave the score 0-0. There, Senegal suffered again and the lack of forcefulness in attack made them equal 0-0 against Malawi, a result that was combined with the defeat of Guinea to miraculously finish leaders of Group B.

With the first objective fulfilled, now there would be no margin of error if they wanted to play in the final, and for that they needed to win the next three games. In the round of 16 they gained in confidence and displayed a greater collective game at the expense of Cape Verde, who played the last half hour with two players sent off, a disadvantage that Mané and Dieng took advantage of to seal the classification with a 2-0.

Next on the list were Equatorial Guinea, in the quarterfinals, and Burkina Faso, for the semifinals. The Senegalese machinery that everyone expected to see was finally able to engage and in both clashes they won 3-1. Losing another final is not in their plans and that is why the Lions of the Terenga want to roar so loud that they can lift their first African Cup of Nations.

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Egypt: without suffering there is no paradise

To win titles, not only good players are needed, but also a great technical director. Egypt hired Carlos Queiroz in September 2021 after months before he disassociated himself from the Colombian National Team. But the journey of the pharaohs through the African Cup of Nations has been marked more than anything by suffering, without detracting from the merits in the matches where they showed greater lucidity than their rival.

The first date of the group stage was a clear example of what they were about to experience. As expected by some, Nigeria showed superiority in the 90 minutes and a single goal was enough to defeat Egypt. Although it was possible to lose to them, the duty was to triumph over Guinea-Bissau and Sudan, something they did with just enough thanks to goals from Salah and Abdel Monem.

Having qualified as second in the group forced the pharaohs to dispute the most complicated keys, a path where the greats tend to get bigger. In the round of 16 they met the Ivory Coast in a duel that was as attractive as it was even, which had to be decided in a penalty shootout with a 5-4 scoreline and where goalkeeper Gabaski began to shine. And it is precisely he who kept Egyptian hopes alive during the quarterfinals against Morocco, a rival they beat 2-1 after 120 minutes of intensity and suffering.

But the final litmus test before the final came against none other than the hosts, Cameroon. The 0-0 did not reflect what was experienced on the court, where nervousness and misfortune on both sides made the spectators get up from their seats. In the end, once again Gabaski dressed as a hero and saved two shots in the penalty shootout to advance to the decisive duel. Certainly, without suffering there is no paradise and those led by Carlos Queiroz will have to give another extra if they want to win the African Cup of Nations for the eighth time.