AFCON: Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to face off in final



Mane’s Senegal was awaiting the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Cameroon and Egypt and, despite the host having the better chances, it was the Pharaohs who progressed on penalties.

Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal produced two brilliant saves in the shootout before Cameroon’s Clinton Njie fired his penalty wide of the post to send Egypt through after a goalless draw.

Egypt will now be bidding for a record-extending eighth AFCON title while Senegal looks to win its first.

Sunday’s final will also be the first of three matches between the two sides in the coming months with the teams pitted against each other in a two-legged playoff for a place in this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Both Salah and Mane have spearheaded Liverpool’s success in recent seasons and they now carry the hopes of their nations on their backs.

Neither have been in lightning form during this year’s tournament but both have still scored goals, Mane netting three times and Salah twice.

‘Experience’ is key

Senegal last reached an AFCON final in 2019, eventually losing 1-0 to Algeria, and the current crop of players will certainly be feeling the weight of expectation to finally end the country’s wait for a title.

The current team — the top-ranked side on the continent — is full of talented players, representing clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

“Experience is a good asset,” Mane said.

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“I think that has always been the case since the start of this tournament. We suffered so much with a lot of Covid cases and several injuries too.

“We had a very difficult time, but with our experience, we kept calm until we recovered the whole group.

“We played a final last time, so we have experience and we will try to win this trophy.”

Egypt, meanwhile, have surprised many by making it so far in the tournament and have scraped through games without producing much exciting football.

Perhaps crucially, Egypt will be without manager Carlos Queiroz on the sideline for the final after the former Manchester United assistant was sent off for arguing with the referee in Thursday’s match.

Queiroz has been pivotal in making this Egyptian side hard to beat but will now watch from behind the scenes as the country looks to make yet more history.

It will once again look to rely on Salah who has been one of the best players in the world this season.

“We are happy, it’s true, but we have not yet reached the final objective,” Egypt’s assistant coach, Diaa Elsayed, said after the match.

“I can also add that our background is also due to the presence of one of the great players, namely Mohamed Salah. A very essential player in our team and who remains the centerpiece for us.”

Salah posted videos to his Instagram story of the Egyptian players celebrating their semifinal victory on the team bus, but he will be looking to go one further to establish himself further as a serial winner.


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