All eyes will be focused on Egypt, the Cairo International Stadium, when Senegal takes on Algeria in the finals of the African Cup of Nations after 28-days of breathtaking soccer.
The continent’s biggest football gathering of men’s senior national teams began with 24 countries clamouring for the trophy but have been reduced to two teams who have arguably been the competition’s best teams.
This will be the second time that the teams will be facing each other in this year’s edition in Egypt with Algeria defeating the Teranga Lions by a lone goal in the group stage match.
Despite the defeat, Senegal can not be written off as the statistics from the match – 50-50 ball possession with 2 shots on target each – suggest that it was an even game.
The rivalry between Sadio Mane of Senegal and Riyad Mahrez of Algeria at club level will bring the final to live as both players will hope to add to their list of accolades. They have each scored three goals, albeit, Mane has missed two penalties, to send their respective teams to the finals.
Road To The Finals
Algeria eased through the group stages to the Round of 16 as leaders after scoring 6 goals and earning 9 points. Guinea posed very little challenged in the Round of 16 after a disappointing 3 nil defeat to Algeria.
El Khadra, the Algerian senior national team, came face to face with elimination in the quarter finals stage of the competition but went through to the semis thanks to a 4-3 penalty shootout win over West African giants, Ivory Coast. The match ended 1-1 after extra time.
The Algerians survived another scare in the semi finals game against third place Nigeria after a spectacular 95th minute Riyad Mahrez free-kick saved their blushes.
The Lions of Teranga on the other hand have had a steady progress in the competition winning by a goal to nil in the knock out stage against Uganda and Benin.
A nervy semi final match against Tunisia established Senegal as favourites after they sneaked into the finals after a 1-0 victory courtesy an own goal after extra time.
Senegal is 4 goals short of the 12 goals scored by Algeria who are the tournament’s highest scoring team. Nigeria and the Teranga Lions follow with 8 goals.
Either side cannot boast of rich AFCON history, albeit, Algeria has a trophy they won in 1990 when they hosted the tournament to show.
It has finished second once in 1980 after a 3 nil defeat to the Super Eagles, and third twice in 1984, hosted by Cote d’Ivoire and 1988, hosted by Morocco. In 2010, they managed a 4th place in the tournament held in Angola.
Senegal will hope to win their first-ever African Cup of Nations cup with arguably their best team since the heroics of the 2002 batch. Their best performance was in 2002 AFCON, placing second after a 0-0 game and losing the shootout to Cameroon.
In 1990, they placed 4th in a tournament won by rival finalists in this year’s edition, Algeria. In 2006, the country managed to repeat its 1990 achievement.
Head to Head
This is the 7th time the two sides will compete with Senegal winning once and losing 4 times to Algeria with one draw game.
Senegal’s defender, Kalidou Koulibay, will miss the finals after receiving two yellow cards in his last three matches.