One of the most exciting attacking duos in world football will meet in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final as Mohamed Salah leads Egypt against a Senegal side led by Sadio Mane.
The Liverpool pair, a combined force at club level, will take on talismanic roles at opposite ends for their respective countries, as Egypt look to extend their record number of Nations Cup wins to eight, while Senegal look to win it for the first time. .
The match is being played at the Olembe stadium in Yaoundé, where eight people were crushed to death in the stadium last week and that tragedy has cast a shadow over the tournament in Cameroon.
Salah has made no secret of his burning desire to win a major trophy with Egypt, which has so far eluded him, while Mane beamed and laughed with delight at the post-match press conference after his team won the semi-final. on Wednesday. .
Senegal, which is Africa’s top-ranked team, was among the favorites and overcame a languid start to reach the final for the third time. They scored just one goal during the first round but still finished top of their group and have been efficient in overcoming their opponents in the knockout stage.
“We suffered a lot with many COVID cases and various injuries as well. We had a very difficult time but with our experience we kept calm until we got the whole group back,” said Mane.
Senegal were without captain Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy at the start of the tournament as they recovered from COVID-19 infections
But their path to the final proved much easier than that of Egypt, who lost their opening group match to Nigeria and drew heavy criticism from home fans for their early performances.
But they have gained momentum, beating Côte d’Ivoire in a penalty shootout in the round of 16; Morocco 2-1 after extra time in the quarterfinals and host Cameroon again on penalties in Thursday’s semi-final.
“We played in very tough circumstances, but we managed to overcome all difficulties,” said Mahmoud Trezeguet.
“We played 120 minutes for three games in a row, but we stayed completely focused on getting the job done. We will play against Senegal with great determination as we learned from the loss to Cameroon in 2017”, he added.
Egypt were runners-up in the 2017 final, featuring Salah and Trezeguet, and won the last of their record seven titles in 2010.
They will play Sunday’s final without coach Carlos Queiroz on the bench after he was sent off for persistent touchline disputes in Thursday’s semi-final. His assistant Roger de Sa was already forced to sit in the stands after a four-match ban for fighting in the tunnel after the quarter-final win over Morocco.
Sunday’s final will also give the winners a big boost before the countries meet again over two games in March to decide a place in the World Cup final in Qatar.