No one saw it coming, but the Egyptian national football team have qualified to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final as they will face Senegal at Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Pharaohs broke many records in this tournament hosted by Cameroon, having the most AFCON final appearances (nine times), the last of which was in the 2017 edition in Gabon. Egypt are also set to break their own record of the most successful nation in AFCON history (seven titles) – the last of which was in 2010 – if they beat Senegal, extending the gap with their closest competitors Cameroon who have five continental titles.
Meanwhile, Senegal presented solid performances throughout the tournament, reaching the AFCON final for the third time in their history and the second time in a row. Senegal will be looking to go one better after losing the previous finals in 2002 and 2019. The past disappointments would be on the team’s coach Aliou Cisse’s mind. He was at the helm in the 2019 edition and was captain when Senegal lost to Cameroon in the 2002 tournament.
The 2021 final will see one of world football’s most exciting attacking duos facing off against each other as Liverpool star Mohamed Salah leads Egypt against a Senegal side spearheaded by his club teammate Sadio Mane.
Egypt and Senegal have met on 12 occasions in all tournaments, with the Pharaohs winning six of them, the last victory coming nearly 16 years ago. Senegal have won four of those matches and came out on top the last time these two sides met in 2014. In AFCON, they met four times with each team winning two matches. The last encounter between them in AFCON was in the 2006 edition held in Egypt and the hosts came out triumphant 2-1.
Road to the final
Egypt collected 6 points and scored just two goals in their three group matches, edging out Guinea-Bissau and Sudan with 1-0 scorelines after losing their tournament opener 1-0 to Nigeria.
All three of their knockout games went into extra time. They beat Ivory Coast 5-4 on penalties before edging out Morocco 2-1. Egypt reached the final after beating hosts Cameroon 3-1 on penalties in the semi-final.
Senegal, too, had an ordinary performance in the group stage. Two stalemates against Guinea and Malawi followed a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in the opener that helped them sneak through.
A 2-0 win over Cabo Verde, 3-1 scoreline against Equatorial Guinea, and another 3-1 win over Burkina Faso helped the side reach the final.
Egypt coach misses the final
Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz will be missing from the dugout for the AFCON final. Interestingly, this could be the crowning moment of the Portuguese’s quarter-century of coaching around the world.
He was sent off in the semi-final win for Egypt. Later, the Disciplinary Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) suspended the 68-year-old coach for two matches and fined him $10,000. He will have to run matters remotely from the stands.
Wael Gomaa, the Egypt national team manager, was also warned by the Disciplinary Committee that he would join Queiroz if he again objected the referee’s decisions.
Egypt: Mohamed Abo Gabal; Emam Ashour, Mohamed Abdel Monem, Mahmoud Hamdi, Ahmed Fatouh; Mohamed Elneny, Amr El Sulaya, Hamdi Fathi; Omar Marmoush, Mohamed Salah, and Mostafa Mohamed.
Senegal: Edouard Mendy; Bouna Sarr, Abdou Diallo, Kalidou Koulibaly, Saliou Ciss; Idrissa Gana Gueye, Nampalys Mendy, Ismaila Sarr; Sadio Mane, Famara Diedhiou, and Bamba Dieng.