The stage is set! The die is cast!! It is now down to the last two teams as Senegal and Egypt battle for the right to be called the Kings of African Football.
With 51 matches played so far, the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations comes to a fitting conclusion as the Teranga Lions and the Pharaohs and Egypt go head-to-head for the ultimate prize at the Paul Biya Stadium in Olembe on Sunday night.
This will be Senegal’s second successive Final and third overall since 2002 but will be looking to make it third time lucky, following previous losses to Cameroon in 2002 and to Algeria in 2019. Egypt on the other hand, are featuring in a record 10th Final and have won this prestigious competition seven times.
A big sub-plot to this fixture is the fact that both teams have been drawn to face each other in the final playoff round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers (CAF Zone) next month, which means that only one of them will make it to Qatar for the Mundial despite both countries having qualified for the last edition in Russia in 2018.
Another sub-plot to this epic clash is the battle between club mates Sadio Mane of Senegal and Mo Salah of Egypt who both ply their trades at Premier League outfit Liverpool. How ironic to note that their manager Jurgen Klopp had labelled the AFCON tournament as a “little competition” weeks before the start of the event, but two of his best players will take on each other in the showpiece Finale.
A record-extending eighth AFCON title is on the sights of the Pharaohs but must navigate past a Senegalese side that has found form and rhythm towards the business side of the tournament.
Senegal are yet to taste defeat at AFCON 2021 and could make it a tournament to remember if they can overcome the Egyptians to claim a maiden crown, while the Pharaohs sole loss at the competition came in their opening group match against the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Egypt have struggled to shine at the tournament and have made it a habit of overcoming their opponents in the knockout rounds via penalties, which might play to the hands of the Senegalese who are fresher, having spent lesser minutes on the pitch during the knockout stages.
Senegal have Mane to turn to for inspiration, as the Liverpool man will be looking to add to his three goals and two assists for the Teranga Lions, while the Egyptians will definitely call on the influential Mo Salah to make magic happen and can also count on goalkeeper Mohamed Gabal if the tie goes on to penalties.