Senegal Is Rightfully Crowned King Of Africa After Nerve-Racking Shootout Win Over Egypt

In the Africa Cup of Nations final billed as Sadio Mané versus Mohamed Salah, it was Mané's Senegal that ultimately triumphed in a shootout on Sunday to claim its first-ever AFCON title. 

Salah individually outperformed Mané over 120 minutes of action, but two Egypt misses in the shootout denied Salah an opportunity in the fifth spot, whereas Mané made amends for an early penalty miss of his own by converting Senegal's all-important fifth attempt.       

The match represented the first of three monumental clashes between the two nations as they've also been drawn against each other in the third round of CAF qualifying to determine which country reaches the World Cup, and there's going to be plenty of bad blood left over from this one when they reconvene.

But that all goes down in March, and today's match in Olembé was of equal importance with Senegal playing confidently and looking to finally deliver after finishing runner-up in 2019. Egypt's campaign, on the other hand, was beginning to feel like destiny after shootout wins over the Ivory Coast (Round of 16) and Cameroon (semifinals).    

Right off the bat Senegal's left flank of Mané and Saliou Ciss challenged Egypt's right. Mohamed Abdelmonem initially repelled Mané, but then the defender chopped down Ciss in the fifth-minute for a stonewall penalty.   

Mané strode forward to take it after telling Egypt goalkeeper Gabaski — who was busy exchanging intel with Salah — that he was putting it in the right corner. Mané actually went a little to the left with power but Gabaski was equal to it.

Two low crosses then went agonizingly close to Mané before Egypt got its first shot on target in the 28th minute. It was Salah dribbling 35 yards from goal and beating four defenders before cutting inside and firing at Edouard Mendy. 

The two Liverpool players remained at the heart of things as Mané was almost split in half by a synchronized double-crunch from Hamdi Fathi and Emam Ashour, and then Salah tried to beat Mendy at his near post before halftime. 

Salah looked like Egypt's only legitimate threat and was guilty of overplaying once or twice, whereas Senegal looked more than capable of creating scoring opportunities without requiring genius from Mané. 

This pattern continued throughout the second half as Senegal sent a bombardment of low crosses into the corridor of uncertainty to cause chaos, but Gabaski and Egypt stood tall under pressure. At the end of 120 minutes, Egypt's keeper had recorded eight saves, including the stop on Mané's penalty and three on 77th-minute substitute Bamba Dieng, while Mendy had three.

We went into a shootout and my initial belief was there's no way in hell Mané takes one. The Liverpool winger nervously paced apart from his teammates and could hardly look as Mohamed Abdelmonem missed Egypt's second, giving Senegal an early advantage.

However, Bouna Sarr then missed for Senegal and Egypt pulled level after three rounds. Bamba Dieng converted Senegal's fourth, but Mohanad Lasheen missed for Egypt. 

If Senegal converted to start the fifth round it was over. As Mané approached the spot, Salah wept — and for good reason.

Here's Salah and Mané after the match. This extremely important battle has been won, but the war continues next month.  

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