Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Vincent Aboubakar were the top players at the concluded Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) held in Cameroon.
Mane showed bravery and mental strength in putting behind him an early squandered penalty to power Senegal to their first African title and bring to an exciting close a troubled tournament in Cameroon.
Mane had a seventh-minute penalty saved in Sunday’s final against Egypt at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, a missed opportunity that could have proven costly as the game continued through extra time to a penalty shoot-out after a goalless stalemate.
But he put the trauma behind him to step up and take the decisive kick in the post-match shoot-out to see his country to a 4-2 win on penalties.
It was as much as Senegal deserved as they dominated the final, living up to their pre-tournament billing as favourites and confirming their ranking as the continent’s top team. It was the first Cup of Nations success for the West African country after two lost finals in 2002 and 2019.
Senegal were barely tested in the tournament, bizarrely scoring a single goal in the group stage – a last-minute Mane penalty in their opening game against Zimbabwe – and yet finishing top of their group.
They then overcame the Cape Verde Islands, Equatorial Guinea, and Burkina Faso to get to the final, while Egypt had a particularly tough run. They went into extra time in each of their knockout rounds, two of them won on post-match penalties.
Their fatigue going into the final was all too evident, exacerbated by another match that went on past the 90-minute mark.
It is the second tournament in three editions that Egypt have finished runners-up, the defeat in Sunday’s final reducing captain Mohamed Salah to tears.