It is a wrap. Senegal are champions of Africa. And a decisive kick from that man Mane sealed the deal. Mane, voted tournament’s best player, missed a penalty but converted another to seal the win over Egypt.
The wait has finally ended
“What a relief for Aliou Cisse, the most criticised coach in the world, according to Mane, standing right in front of the celebrating Senegalese fans. Clad in the Senegalese colours, the emotional coach is taking in all the adoration and love,” adds Oluwashina from Olembe Stadium, witnessing history himself. Sadio Mane scored the winning spot-kick – after missing one in the opening minutes of the game – as Senegal claimed their first Africa Cup of Nations title with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over seven-time winners Egypt.
Mane stepped up to make history for the West African nation on Sunday at the Olembe Stadium in Cameroon’s Yaounde, and banished the memories of the team’s 2019 failure when they lost the final to Algeria. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy saved from Mohanad Lasheen in the shoot-out to allow Mane the chance to seal the win and gain just reward for Senegal, who had been by far the better side in the final but spurned numerous opportunities to win the game.
Egypt had their goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal to thank for getting them into the shoot-out as he was outstanding in keeping Senegal at bay in what was the fourth time in as many games they had played extra time in energy-sapping conditions. There may be some poetic justice for Senegal coach Aliou Cisse, who was captain of the side in 2002 when they lost the final on penalties to Cameroon after a goalless draw, having missed his kick in the shoot-out.
Egypt, who had to do without suspended coach Carlos Queiroz in the dug-out, battled to get into the game and created only half-chances, with their talisman Mohamed Salah largely ineffective. Salah was in tears at the end, having also lost the 2017 final to Cameroon and seeing his Liverpool teammate Mane seal his fate this time around. Senegal fluffed the chance for an early lead when Mohamed Abdelmonem’s late, reckless challenge brought down left back Saliou Ciss.
Salah had a lengthy conversation with Gabal before Mane stepped up to take the spot-kick. The latter went for power straight down the middle of the goal but his effort was saved, the 10th penalty miss in the tournament. Ismaila Sarr’s trickery down the right wing caused more early problems for Egypt and his low cross was narrowly missed by Mane at the back post on two occasions.
Egypt finally caused some alarm in the Senegal box when Salah cut inside off the right and forced a good save from Mendy. The pattern of play continued in the second half with Senegal doing most of the attacking and both Famara Diedhiou and Mane were denied by Gabal in quick succession. Marwan Hamdi flashed a header wide at the other end, while in the first half of extra time, Gabal again made a fine stop to deny substitute Bamba Dieng. But Senegal found the net when it mattered to take home the trophy. The victory marked Senegal’s first success in the tournament and sparked jubilant celebrations across the capital city of three million people. The government had declared Monday a public holiday in order to celebrate the occasion. Senegal reached the final of the AFCON twice but the Lions of Teranga never clinched the ultimate prize until Sunday. Africa’s top-ranked national team and 20th in the world lost the last Cup of Nations final in 2019, falling 1-0 to Algeria in Cairo. It also lost the 2002 final on penalties to Cameroon, a few months before becoming one of just three African teams to reach a World Cup quarter-final.
“It’s the best day of my life,” Mane said after winning the title. “I’m living a dream. I can’t believe it. The wait was long but finally we did it. We are all happy and proud to win this trophy.”
Jubilation of the crowd in the heart of the city ( James Hercules/ AlizeLaVie Media Photos)
Euphoric crowds greet AFCON winners Senegal in Dakar
Senegal’s victorious football team were treated to a hero’s welcome when they returned to the capital Dakar. A unique, cheerful unforgettable moment shared with all senegaleses displaying national pride.
08/02/2022 By Alize Utteryn
Credits: James Hercule/ AlizeLaVie Media Photos with News Agency