Dale Money | July 19th, 2019
The final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, will finally come to a head this Friday afternoon in Cairo. With the top two scoring countries in the tournament, Algeria, and Senegal are getting their rematch. In the last five head to head games, Algeria has taken four of them.
Aliou Cisse will be looking to guide his Lions Of Teranga, to their first-ever African Cup title. Cisse was one of the main cogs in that Senegal 2002 World Cup squad, leading a country that had never made a World Cup in the past, to a quarterfinal appearance.
On the other side, Djamel Belmadi has done a superb job getting his Desert Foxes to this point. An ex-national team player Belmadi has quite the coaching background. He has managed five clubs over a nine-year period, including a stint with the Qatar national team.
Senegal has made 15 African Cup appearances, their previous best finish was in 2002. They finished runners up to Cameroon, losing 3-2 in a penalty shootout. Algeria has made the tournament on eighteen separate occasions, winning the trophy in 1990.
How They Got Here
Senegal outside of the loss to Algeria played pretty well, in the group stages. They would kick off their opening matchup against Tanzania, with a 2-0 victory. Keita Balde broke the game open for Senegal in the 28th-minute mark, off a slid pass from Idrissa Gueye. They would double up the lead in the 65th minute after an unsuccessful clearance from Tanzania, Krepin Diatta made no mistake from 20 yards out.
Onto the group match against Algeria, in what turned out to be a really scrappy affair with the refs doling out 53 fouls, along with four yellow cards. It would finish with a lone goal from Algeria’s Mohamed Youcef Belaïli in the 49th minute. Sadio Mane would show up in the final group match against Kenya, picking up goals in the 71st and 78th minute. Helping Senegal to a 3-0 victory and a date with Benin in the knockouts.
Senegal would end up having a tough time, getting through a stingy effort from Benin. As Benin followed a game plan, of hanging back in their own end and suffocating the Senegal attack the best they could. A botched back pass, to the Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, almost ended up giving Benin the go-ahead goal. Gueye would eventually capitalize off a feed from Mane in the 69th minute. And that would be how the game would finish.
In the semi-final against Tunisia. Senegal needed an own goal from Tunisia’s Dylan Bronn in extra time to push through to the final. In what turned out to be one of the more exciting games of the tournament.
Algeria had a tremendous run in the groups, finishing with a clean sweep of their matches, accumulating six goals with zero goals allowed. Their opening contest with Kenya, Bagdhad Boundjah would break open the scoring in the 35th minute off a penalty shot. Riyad Mahrez would add to the scoring for the Desert Foxes, off an assist from Ismael Bennacer. The game would finish up 2-0.
After surviving a tough matchup with Senegal in the next game, they’d close out the with a 3-0 blowout of Tanzania. All three goals were scored late in the first half as Islam Slimani and Adam Ouna’s contributed for an Algeria walkover. It would end up being, another 3-0 blowout of Guinea in the quarter-finals.
Mohamed Youcef Belaïli opened the scoring in the 39th minute. Into the 56th minute, a crossover pass from Ramy Bensebiani, into the edge of the penalty area. Would connect perfectly with Mahrez who would beat out the defender and put it into the back of the mesh. Ounas would put the icing on the cake, scoring his second goal in the 82nd minute.
In their semifinal contest against Nigeria, dominated the first half and should have had more than a 1-0 lead to show for it. They would end up scoring on an own goal from William Troost-Ekong, who ends up deflecting it into his own net. The 70th minute in, Nigeria would end up converting on a penalty shot, knotting it up at 1-1. It would stay even stevens until the 95th minute. Riyad Mahrez free-kick proved to be the difference, in sending them through to the final.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Mane and Mahrez will each be vying for the Golden Boot, with three goals each. Look for them to be heavily involved in this contest.
Senegal is not devoid of dangerous strikers outside of Mane, however. Ismaila Sarr and Keita Balde are each very capable of winning a game for you. They have had some close calls in the knockouts and will need to do a much better job at putting away their chances when afforded. They will be without Kalidou Koulibaly who has been a rock on that defense.
M’Baye Niang should start as Senegal’s lone striker. Diatta, Gueye, and Mane will be slotted at forward. Badou Ndiaye and Henri Saivet will cover the midfield. It should be Lamine Gassama, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Youssouf Sabaly, and Salif Sane on the backend. Gomis will be the goalkeeper.
Algeria has played an explosive blend of football, all tournament. And it’s been the depth scoring that has been the most impressive. Belaili, Ounas, and Mahrez have scored at least two goals each. Boundjah and Sofiane Feghouli have also chipped in with a goal apiece. They will likely look to open the game up, a little more than they did in their earlier group match.
Belaili, and Bounedjah should start at forward. At midfield, look for them to go with the core of Adlene Guedioura, Mahrez, Feghouli, Ismael Bennacer. On the defense Youcef Atal, Aissa Mandi, Djamel Benlamri, and Ramy Bensebaini. And starting in goal, Rais M’Bolhi.
Questions and comments?
Follow Us on Twitter @thescorecrow
Follow Us on Reddit at u/TheScorecrow
Follow Us on Facebook at The Scorecrow
Follow Us on Instagram at The Scorecrow
Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow Dale Money on Twitter @packerd_00
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images