Seven-time AFCON champions Egypt beat host nation Cameroon in a penalty shootout that was largely unimpressive on the side of the hosts, who played three wayward penalties in succession to hand Egypt a clear win in the shootout.
Earlier, Senegal exerted their dominance over Burkina Faso by emphatically beating them 3-1 to set up a meeting with the winner of the Egypt v Cameroon game in the Final.
Salah and Mané, two of the best players in the world and Africa’s best players will be facing off in a match that means a lot to their nations as well as each other.
Mané is the reigning African player of the year, finally winning the trophy after coming in as runner-up to his Liverpool teammate Salah in the last two editions. Senegal have also never won the AFCON, despite being finalists on a number of occasions.
Salah, on the other hand, has consistently been in the Ballon d’Or discussions and has been on the African best player podium more times than Mané. His nation, Egypt, are the record AFCON title holders but have not won a trophy in the last five editions, which has seen their stock drop in African football.
As the world awaits the match up of epic proportions for the African continent between Liverpool teammates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané who will face off with their nations Egypt and Senegal in the final of the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations, we take a look at some of the biggest talking points from both teams.
Egypt Have Been Underwhelming in This AFCON Edition
The Pharaohs started their campaign with a loss to Napoli forward Victor Osimhen’s Nigeria but built slowly until they got to the final. They focused solely on getting results but in the end, played a tournament that showed how much they have fallen in the African game.
Despite having promising attackers led by Salah, they chose to sit in deep and defend and all their games ended up as low scoring ones. Salah, with his two goals and assists is Egypt’s highest contributor to their attack, showing how much luck has played a key role in their run up to the Final.
Egypt Will Have to Improve as They Prepare for Senegal
While Salah has struggled with Egypt, Mane and Senegal have shrugged off the early tournament blues to become even more clinical in the knockout rounds.
Senegal have scored eight goals in the knockout rounds in contrast to their lone goal in the entirety of the group stages. Egypt, meanwhile, have four goals in total: two in the group stages and two in the knockout rounds.
They will have to sharpen their attack and use it if they are to break down Senegal and get their hands on the elusive record-extending eight title.
Goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal is only their second choice, but his performances since his introduction in the second half of their round of 16 game have officially put him as their best performer.
The Pharaohs will have to hope that Abou Gabal continues to be their best player against a Senegal side who now attack in similar fashion to their moniker: the Teranga Lions.
AFCON 2021: Evaluating Egypt’s Run Up to the Final
Egypt have a chance to extend their record in the African Cup of Nations with a win over Senegal in the final in the 33rd edition of the tournament being held in Cameroon.
They managed to grant fans of African football a silent wish, as two of the best players in the world in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will be facing off in the final for exclusive bragging rights on the continent.
Their match up could also have great implications for the rest of the season leading up to the individual awards which will be dished out at the latter part of the year.
The Pharaohs managed to qualify for the final while playing unimpressively for the duration of the tournament. In the six matches leading to the final, Egypt only scored four goals in total, the lowest tally in the whole tournament.
For this reason, many believe that Egypt are the ‘worst finalists’ in recent AFCON history.
Egypt 3rd Lowest Scoring Team in AFCON History to Play a Final
Despite boasting the likes of Salah, Trezeguet, Marmoush in attack, manager Carlos Queiroz decided to set his team up to sit back and break instead of play free-floating football to maximise his side’s attacking prowess.
And with the unpredictability of African football, it was hard to get the fast breaks that Queiroz hoped for, making Egypt play on the back foot for most of the tournament. This led to their poor return in front of goal, which is the lowest in the tournament since 1988 and the third lowest since group stages were introduced to the competition in 1963.
But it is worth noting that this Egyptian side had even more chances to better their goalscoring record, as they played a complete 120 minutes in all their knockout games, which makes their case even more special among the poorest finalists in AFCON history.
Egypt Goalkeeper Has Been Their Best Player
The goalkeeper’s role is a thankless one in football largely because they could spend a whole game doing nothing if their outfield players do their jobs properly.
This means that when your team’s goalkeeper is constantly called into action, there is a problem with the way your team’s outfield players are performing. It is even worse when the goalkeeper outshines every outfield player by having more touches of the ball on average than many of the outfield players outside of his primary duty of stopping the ball from hitting the back of the net.
This is exactly the case with this Egypt side, as second choice goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal who came on to replace first choice goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy in the Round of 16 tie against Franck Kessié’s Cote d’Ivoire, stole the headlines.
Abou Gabal has been the side’s best player since then, saving them in both regulation time and in the two penalty shootouts they had as they moved up to the final.
Egypt under Carlos Queiroz are a really bad team – they scored only eight goals in 11 matches before the AFCON started – and with Senegal in their way in the AFCON Final as well as the World Cup in Qatar later this year, there is no end in sight to their woes.