Mané, lion king

The Teranga lions are the new kings of Africa. Senegal won their first CAN two and a half years after falling short after losing the 2019 final to Algeria. This time, the best Senegalese generation in history beat Egypt in a final in which they were better, but in which they could only break the tie from the penalty shootout.

The hymns had barely stopped playing when Abdelmonem fatally measured a tackle on Ciss inside the area and committed a penaltyi. Mané quickly grabbed the ball and challenged Gabaski to a psychological game. He pointed to the right side of the goal and told the goalkeeper that he was going to shoot it on that side. Salah, who knows his teammate at Liverpool like few others, appeared to advise his compatriot at the last moment. We don’t know what he said but the goalkeeper decided not to believe Mané and was right when he guessed the bluff. He dived to the opposite side and saved his fourth penalty of the tournament. Since replacing El Shenawy in extra time in the round of 16, Gabaski has been the most decisive player in his side, leading them to the final thanks to stoppages against Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.

The ruling did not wrinkle Mané. The Senegalese did not stop asking for the ball and tried to face every time he could. Senegal came into the area several times thanks to the verticality of their football, but the lions needed to sharpen their claws a little more. When the last pass did not fail, it was the last dribble or a center that could not find a finisher. Senegal dominated and Mané, despite his failure, shone. The scenario made Salah jealous and the Egyptian made sure to ask for the spotlight with two trademark slaloms, with the ball glued to the foot and dodging rivals. His first shot was meek at Mendy’s hands. In the second he forced the Chelsea goalkeeper to do his best to deflect the ball for a corner with a hand that prevented the ball from going into the top corner.

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Despite Senegalese rule, Egypt did not change their plan in the second half. He waited for his rival near his area hoping to find Salah in some counter and trusting Pharaoh to do his thing. While he waited for the miracle, Senegal was accumulating chances. Gueye, Mané and Ciss had them to open the scoring but ran into Gabaski. After the three scares, Queiroz decided to make a move and made a triple change to reinforce the midfield and minimize the risks. Objective accomplished. The game stalled, the pace slowed down and only from set pieces did the two teams tickle each other until the end of regulation time.

In extra time Senegal worked hard from the start to prevent their fate from being decided on penalties, but the figure of Gabaski reappeared, in the form of a giant. ANDhe Egyptian goalkeeper did everything possible to thwart Dieng and Mané’s attempts to take the lead in extra time in which Salah disappeared completely.

After 120 minutes, Egypt entrusted themselves to Gabaski, as they did throughout the tournament, and Senegal to Mendy. The Egyptian stopped one and the Chelsea player another. Abdelmonem shot the post and Mané redeemed himself from his initial mistake by hitting the final shot to give Senegal their first African Cup.

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