They cried like babies after losing the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations title to the Teranga Lions of Senegal. But for the Pharaohs of Egypt, a pay back time awaits Sadio Mane and his Senegalese team soon.
The Mohamed Salah-led Pharaohs will get a chance to bounce back from their defeat when they play Senegal again in a Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying play-off next month. The decisive World Cup play-off is a two-legged affair.
The Pharaohs came into Sunday’s final at Olembe Stadium hoping to extend their AFCON title to eight, having grabbed seven continental crowns in the past. But they went down 4-2 in a shoot-out in Yaounde after the match finished 0-0 at the end of extra time.
Mohamed Abdelmonem and Mohanad Lasheen failed to convert their penalties, meaning Salah did not get the chance to step up before Sadio Mane converted the winning kick for Senegal to give the Teranga Lions their first ever AFCON crown.
It was Egypt’s third shootout in four knockout games. In truth, the Pharaohs could have few complaints having already scraped past one of the tournament’s favourites, Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, in the last 16 and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun in the semifinals on penalties.
Liverpool top striker, Mohamed Salah, couldn’t hide his tears as his Anfield teammate, Sadio Mane, celebrated with the Africa Cup of Nations title.
Salah had promised to win the trophy for Egyptian fans, who stood by them despite losing falling at the round of 16 three years ago, when Egypt hosted the tournament. More importantly, Salah also wanted the AFCON trophy to complete his chain of titles, having won the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League, FA Cup and many others.
Despite being the most stretched team in the tournament, the Egyptians were able to withhold a barrage of Senegalese attacks to take the Africa Cup of Nations final to penalties, but they could not produce another shootout victory.
Egypt would have found themselves trailing within the first two minutes had Zamalek goalkeeper, Gabaski, not produced a brilliant save to deny Mane.
The goalkeeper’s heroics set the tone for a match, which he and opposite number, Edouard Mendy of Chelsea dominated. Having shut out Senegalese attack for 90 minutes, Gabaski saved his most theatrical stops for extra time, first leaping to his left to deny Bamba Dieng’s header and later diving to his right to keep out the forward’s vicious, swerving effort .
On his part, Mendy had the easier night of the two ‘keepers but made a fine save at his near post to deny a whipped effort from Salah in the first half. The Chelsea goalkeeper maintained his composure in the final seconds of extra time to push a powerful effort from Marwan Hamdi over the bar and take the game to penalties, where he came into his own, saving Mohanad Lasheen’s poor spot kick after Mohamed Abdelmonem struck the inside post to hand Mane the chance to atone for his earlier miss by converting the winning penalty.
Will Sadio Mane and the Senegalese squad break Egypt’s heart a second time, when they meet for Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier next month? Or will they allow Mo Salah and the Pharaohs have their way? The countdown has begun.