After a month-long tournament, Senegal has been crowned Champions of Africa! They beat Egypt in a penalty shootout to win AFCON 2021! Let’s take a look at how they were able to win their first-ever AFCON, and how entertaining this tournament was.
Senegal wins its first-ever AFCON
Senegal had made the AFCON final twice before AFCON 2021. They lost both, but this version of the team was a team of destiny. Their coach Aliou Cissé had felt the defeats of the past as both a player and a coach, and this time he was able to lead his team to exercise their demons.
Senegal did not lose at AFCON 2021, they scored nine goals and only allowed two. Their style of play was that of an unstoppable force. They love to use the ball through possession to create attacks. It truly looks like the beautiful game when they play. Now they are champions of Africa
Senegal vs Egypt
The final itself featured Senegal’s unstoppable force and also the immovable object style that Egypt likes to play. Both have their merits and carried both nations to the AFCON 2021 final. Through the match, it looked as if Egypt’s way might actually prevail.
Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abougabal would be named man of the match even in a losing effort. He saved all eight shots on target Senegal had and changed the trajectory of the match early on. In the seventh minute, Senegal won a penalty, and their star, Sadio Mane, stepped up to attempt to give his side an early lead. The star attacker took the penalty well, but Egyptian keeper Mohamed Abougabal made a huge save. This shifted the tide of the match and helped Egypt settle in.
The match stayed 0-0 during regulation and through 30 minutes of extra time. The match would be decided on penalty kicks. Egypt came into the shootout with the upper hand. They had been in two already in the knockout rounds of the tournament, while Senegal did not. Egypt’s keeper Mohamed Abougabal looked much more relaxed, while Senegal’s Edouard Mendy seemed to be jittery. As the kicks started things seemed to settle down for both.
Senegal shot first, making their first two rounds of shots. Egypt made their first shot, but their second taker, Mohamed Abdelmonem struck the post. Senegal had the advantage, but their third taker, Bouna Sarr, had his penalty saved. Egypt then converted their third attempt to bring everything level. On the fourth round of shots Senegal converted, but Egypt had their chance saved by Senegal’s keeper Mendy. This set up Senegal’s chance for the win, and it was poetic justice.
Sadio Mane stepped up and slotted home a perfect penalty after getting his effort in regulation saved. Mane’s penalty won Senegal their first ever AFCON, and the celebrations began. While this was how the tournament ended it’s not the last meaningful game these two nations will play against one another this year.
Two of the best in Africa
These two will meet again in the final round of CAF World Cup Qualifying in a two-leg playoff in March. The winner of which will qualify for the 2022 Men’s World Cup.
These two are two of the best in Africa. Their distinct styles of play and execution of each style make them fun to watch, and good in a tournament. Egypt may be down now, but has about one-and-a-half months to prepare for a rematch to make the World Cup could their defense-first style extract revenge, and get them to the World Cup?
Senegal could be a legitimate power in world soccer. This win at AFCON 2021 could just be the beginning. If they can get past Egypt once again and make the Men’s World Cup, could they make a run to the Cup? No African Nation has made it past the quarterfinals stage of a World up, but this team might just be able to do it after a truly masterful AFCON 2021.
A great tournament
If this was your first time following the AFCON tournament, I hope you’ve seen just how much fun and entertaining this competition is. It may not be on the same level of play as some of the more popular tournaments in the world, but it definitely isn’t a step back.
Each of the 24 nations that competed had heart and believed they could progress to win the tournament. We saw Cinderella stories make runs along with the truly great teams. Nothing was predictable, at times chaos ensued. AFCON 2021 will always be remembered as the one where Senegal finally won!
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