At the Cairo International Stadium, in Egypt, Friday, the Foxes, beat Senegal, the Lions of Teranga 1-0 to deny Senegal its first African Nations Cup.
The match was decided in the second minute when a strike by Baghdad Bounedjah was fortuitously deflected into the corner of the net. Bounedjah had sped towards the Senegal goal and cutting in from the left, he went past Lamine Gassama and his shot, which took a heavy deflection off Salif Sané, seemed to be going over the bar before it spun downwards sharply, into the net. The goal keeper was left flat footed; but Algeria was ahead.
They never created a goal scoring chance, but they managed to shut off a spirited Senegal team.
Senegal has their chances: Niang went around Rais Mbolhi but skewed wide from an angle. The Algerian goal keeper, Mbolhi tipped over a pile driver from Youssouf Sabaly and a cross from Youcef Belaili’s cross was almost deflected past Alfred Gomis.
After five meetings, Senegal is yet to beat Algeria in the AFCON. Their best performance was a 2-2 draw in 2017. And in this tournament, they lost twice, in the group stage and the final.
On the way to the final, Algeria beat the Super Eagles of Nigeria, 1-0 by a free kick for the Algeria Captain, Riyad Mahrez. He said the victory over Nigeria gave “us more confidence to play the final. We are capable of winning it.”
The team scored 13 goals and conceded two to win the Nations Cup.
Senegal’s coach and captain of the national team to their first AFCON final 17 years ago, Aliou Cisse, had so much confidence in his team, which has Liverpool star Sadio Mane and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
After their semifinal victory over Tunisia, he said: “I feel very proud. We haven’t reached the final since 17 years. This is the fruit of a long-time preparation. Those players worked hard for five full years and now we get the fruit of this hard work.”
The team certainly missed the leadership of Koulibaly, who missed the final through suspension. Ironically, it was his replacement, Salif Sané on whose boots the ball deflected into the net, for the solitary goal of the match.
After the semifinal match, Cisse said. “They did all what is needed to win. When I became their coach in 2015 I told them our target is to reach the FIFA World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations final. That was the way to convince Kalidou Koulibaly to play for Senegal instead of France.”
Two indigenous coaches in the AFCON final perhaps says something about the success of foreign coaches in Africa. No doubt the Algerian coach, Djamel Belmadi, and Cissé, his childhood friend, who must wait to guide Senegal to a first title of their own had the best two teams in the tournament.