Senegal is a paradox in African football. Many of the best players have donned the Teranga Lions shirt, meaning they are often seen as a strong representative of African football.
Which makes it even more surprising that, as of 2022, they had never won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Luck – or the lack of it – really played a part in this. But it’s still mind-boggling for fans outside the continent.
Which made their AFCON 2022 final win over Egypt even more spectacular. Egypt is the opposite in this regard; They have won the AFCON Trophy a record seven times, more than any other team.
So when the finalists for the tournament were decided, it was always going to be interesting. The pragmatic Egyptians were racing for a record eighth title, while Senegal’s free-flowing stars were anticipating years of heartbreak.
In the end, it was Senegal who emerged victorious after a penalty shootout; Egypt, who had won two penalty shootouts in the tournament, lost in the end.
It is tempting to say that the better team won. Eventually, Egypt adopted a negative and monotone playing style throughout the tournament.
He was better known for taking the ball out of play and wasting time than for his football. However, the same cannot be said about Senegal.
The Lions struggled a bit in the group stage but scored 8 goals in the knockout stage. Under the leadership of talisman Sadio Mane, Senegal were a transformed team.
But a football victory is nothing without a little drama, as the Senegalese learned at the AFCON finals.
It is worth noting that for Senegal, the journey to become AFCON champions for the first time was a long one.
How Senegal ended decades of heartbreak
They first made the tournament in 1965 but were knocked out at the group stage – but only due to conceding more goals than hosts Tunisia.
In 1992, they hosted the tournament but lost to Cameroon in the quarters. And in 2002, things would get even worse.
They made it to the final but lost on penalties when Aliu Cisse – their current manager – missed the decisive spot kick.
In 2017, another penalty shootout against Cameroon – this time in the quarters – this time with Sadio Mane missing, resulted in elimination.
And those memories must have bothered Mane even more after missing a penalty in regulation time.
Mane’s record from the spot is really poor, so offering to take one in the final was a big step. And one who didn’t pay.
Egypt were proving difficult to break down and would capitalize on their chances at penalties. But once luck favored Singh.
Mohamed Abdelmonem sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way but his shot hit the inside of the post and deflected off. It was quickly canceled as Abu Gabal’s attempt was saved by Midget Sarr.
But Mendy saved Mohandas Lasheen’s shot and suddenly Mane had the chance to win the match. As mentioned earlier, his record is spot on at best.
But the winger hit a strong shot down the left and despite Mohamed Abugabal’s correct timing, he was unable to keep the shot from going in.
How much does it matter to the country? Well, Coach Siss said it best after the game.
“From independence till now, we have never had a star on our shirt… and now we have our first star.
“We deserved it, and that’s when you look at the match in its entirety, and I never doubted that.”