2019 AFCON Final: Senegal vs Algeria (Cairo International Stadium, 20:00 CAT, July 19)
The 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will know its Champion today when 1990 winners Algeria take on the 2002 finalists Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium this Friday July 19, 2019 at 20:00 CAT.
Algeria will be playing the final for the third time after losing to Nigeria 3-0 in 1990 and getting their revenge with a 1-0 win in the 1990 final. It has been a long wait of 29 years for the Desert Foxes to finally reach this stage of the competition.
For the Teranga Lions of Senegal it will be only their second appearance in an AFCON final after they lost to Cameroon on penalties 17 years ago in Bamako.
Algeria finished top of Group C with three wins in three games, including a win against Senegal, scoring six goals and conceding none.
Senegal were runners-up in Group C behind Algeria with two wins, scoring four goals and conceding one.
In the round of 16, Algeria thrashed Guinea 3-0 while Senegal edged the Cranes of Uganda by a narrow 1-0 win.
In the quarter-finals, Senegal saw off a stubborn Benin with another 1-0 win, while Algeria only eliminated Ivory Coast in post match penalties since both teams were tied on a 1-1 score after extra time.
A 95th minute Riyad Mahrez free-kick was the difference in Algeria’s semi-final tie against the Super Eagles of Nigeria as the game looked to be going into extra-time with both teams tied at 1-1 before Mahrez made it 2-1. Senegal left it late against Tunisia in a game full of drama with a missed penalty on either side, the game was decided at the 100th minute by an own goal from reliable Tunisian defender Dylan Bronn.
It therefore promises to be an exciting final between the two best teams in the tournament. Algeria have scored 12 goals and conceded two, while Senegal have scored six and benefited from an own-goal and only conceded ones and that was against Algeria in the group-stage.
Senegal are trying to win the trophy for the first time in their 15th AFCON appearance while the Desert Foxes are looking to lift the trophy for the second time.
Apart from the players on the pitch there will be an interesting battle on the sidelines between the two gentlemen coaching these teams. They grew up together in the Paris suburb of Champigny-Sur-Marne with Senegal born Aliou Cisse a day older than Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi.
Cisse became a PSG player while Belmadi blossomed with their bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille. It’s therefore an old rivalry between these two fine African coaches though to them it remains a game of football.
“I haven’t spoken to Aliou,” Djamel told reporters on Thursday, when asked whether he had spoken to his counterpart about the game. “This is not the time to talk, we will talk after the game and before the game too there will be no problem.
“It’s extraordinarily ironic to see two kids who grew up together in Champigny-Sur-Marne are now facing each other in the AFCON final. We should check if something like that ever happened before.
“We grew up in the same city and played together as young boys. It’s amazing to see us today as head coaches of our respective national teams. Fate brought us to this final and it has a special taste,” Djamel Belmadi added.
Belmadi will become only the second Algerian to lead Algeria to AFCON glory after Abdelhamid Kermali in 1990, which is a feat the likes of Rabah Madjer and the great Lahktar Belloumi amongst others failed the achieve.
His opponent Aliou Cisse preferred to focus on the game and not dwell on his past life with Belmadi. He made it clear that their defeat against Algeria in the group-stage helped his team to better understand themselves and has helped them going forward.
“Our second group match against Algeria was a misstep on our part and that defeat allowed us to regroup, to become even stronger,” Cisse said.
“Friday is the final, it’s a special match, but we don’t need to make long speeches as if we were going to war. We have to stay in football. We are very calm and focused on the task,” he added.
The Teranga Lions will have to face Algeria without their most reliable defender, kalidou Koulibaly who is suspended for this game. Aliou Cisse has a plan to make-up for the absence of the highly rated France born Napoli defender who almost played for France instead of Senegal.
“Kalidou is one of the best in his position in the world, but we have the solution to replace him. We are ready,” the 43 year old Senegal coach added.
Whichever of these two coaches comes on top in this tie, it will be the 16th time a local coach is leading his team to AFCON glory in 32 editions and two men stand out, Ghana’s Charles Gyamfi and Egypt’s Hassan Shetata both did so on three occasions.
Algeria are unbeaten against Senegal in their four previous meetings in the AFCON (W3, D1). Senegal are the team Algeria have played against the most without losing in the AFCON.
The Desert Foxes have conceded just two goals in this edition of the AFCON, the only time they conceded less was in 1984 edition, when they conceded just a goal though they only settled for a third place finish.
The Senegalese have to be wary of this Algerian team that has nine players who have been involved in at least one goal(excluding own-goals) during this particular tournament: right back Youcef Atal, midfielder Youcef Belaili, midfielder Ismael Bennacer, left back Ramy Bensebaini, forward Baghdad Bounejah, winger Sofiane Feghouli, Winger Riyad Mahrez, midfielder Adam Ounas and forward Islam Slimani. That is more than any other team.
The Teranga Lions of Senegal have won their last four games. It’s their longest winning streak in the AFCON.
Their front man Sadio Mane is the player who has attempted (34) and completed (20) the most dribbles so far in the 2019 tournament.
Algeria has a slight advantage in this game with a lot of vengeance in the air on the part of the Senegalese. It promises to be an exciting final as the best teams in this tournament without any doubt look to make AFCON history in their own rights.
Players to Watch
Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Position: Forward Club: Liverpool Age: 27
With three goals and two missed penalties to his credit, the Liverpool man still has his eyes on the golden boot with Odion Ighalo still within touching distance, just two goals away. His interest will however be to help his team finally get an AFCON win and do what Jules Bocande, El Diouf, Khalilou Fadiga and even Aliou Cisse failed to do as players. He has the talent to live up to the challenge.
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Position: Winger: Manchester City Age: 28
He has only shown flashes of his abilities and has scored three goals, notably that glorious free-kick that knocked out the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the semi-final. They will look up to him for inspiration again in this highly anticipated final.