Senegal have been crowned African Champions. After one month of enthralling football. What an amazing night it was. Senegal beat Egypt to win what has been a thrilling tournament and be crowned African Champions in Cameroon. Four weeks of competition down, the final saw the continent’s two best players in Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah compete for a first international honour, with both star forwards having played integral roles in their respective nation’s run to the final.
Firstly, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah proved their worth as Africa’s two best forwards. Secondly, it was impressive for Egypt to make it to the final. This team was beaten in their opening group match. This feat is amazing. On the other hand, Nigeria were group leaders but tumbled out immediately after winning the group. Egypt went on to book a final with Senegal. And they set the stage for the battle of the Liverpool forwards.
How it happened
It was always going to be about them. Written in the stars. They knew it. Their countries knew it. The entire African continent knew it. The rivalry between Liverpool’s duo dominated the build-up to the final, and came to the fore within six minutes.
Firstly, Senegal got a penalty. Consequently, two minutes elapsed during which Mo Salah briefed his goalie where Mane would most likely dispatch. Most importantly, it worked. As a result, Mane blasted directly at the keeper. In other words, Egypt’s game plan would have been ripped up had Mané scored.
However, over the course of 120 minutes, no one could find the breakthrough. Not Egypt, with their rugged and brave defending. Likewise Senegal, adventurous but without imagination.
Egypt had been the penalty masters defeating Ivory Coast and Cameroon earlier in the tournament. However, their luck ran out when it mattered. First Abdelmoneim struck the post, and although Senegal’s Bouna Sarr shot was also saved, Mendy facilitated Mané’s shot at redemption. This time the Liverpool man took no chances, striking low and fiercely to Abdelmoneom’s right to spark joyous scenes in the stadium and his home country.
Egypt’s Mo Salah was left in tears. He had teed himself up for the 5th penalty, which he never got to take. The penalty shootout had already been over by then. Game over. The victory was no more than Senegal deserved after dominating for long periods only to be denied repeatedly by Egypt goalkeeper Gabaski (Man of the match) as the game finished goalless after 120 gruelling minutes. Mane’s winning kick sparked jubilant scenes for Senegal and deep disappointment for Egypt.
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