After a month of matches with historic wins and jaw-dropping shoot-outs, the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is coming to a close. Twenty-two teams have been eliminated, leaving Senegal and Egypt to face off in the final at Cameroon’s Olembe Stadium this Sunday, Feb. 6.
Both finalists entered the semifinals without any assurance that they’d pass the round. In Egypt’s match against Cameroon, the two teams remained in lockstep, at 0-0, until the clock had run out and a showdown of penalty shots began. Egypt may have earned its spot as the most successful nation in AFCON history – they’ve won the tournament seven times – but Cameroon has never trailed far behind, having won five times. So when the two teams went head-to-head in the semifinals, Cameroon had a solid chance at winning a sixth trophy on their home soil. But in the penalty shootout, Egypt’s goalkeeper, Mohamed Abou Gabal, came through for his team with two saves, securing Egypt’s place as a finalist.
The semifinal between Senegal and Burkina Faso was equally hard-fought. While Senegal has earned its place among Africa’s top teams, including when they served as a finalist in AFCON 2019, they’ve surprisingly never won the tournament. And there was a good chance Burkina Faso would squash those dreams of winning, yet again – or even making it to the final round of AFCON twice in a row. However, in the riveting final 20 minutes of their match, Senegal landed three goals and defeated Burkina Faso 3-1.
On Saturday, Cameroon and Burkina Faso will duke it out for third place – and then, on Sunday, Egypt and Senegal will take their places on the field as finalists.
Adding to the excitement of AFCON’s final, fans will look on as Africa’s two best players – teammates and noted heroes for Liverpool – Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, face off, proudly representing their own nations in this epic battle. While neither player has delivered a stellar performance this tournament, Mané has scored more goals than Salah.
That said, Mané’s greater number of goals is unlikely to have any bearing on who will win the AFCON 2021 title. Senegal’s path in the knockout stage was certainly easier than Egypt’s, having gone up against Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea and, yes, Burkina Faso; Egypt arguably fought harder to become a finalist, going into extra-time at all three of their knockouts against Ivory Coast, Morocco and Cameroon.
So who will win AFCON 2021? Will Egypt earn its eighth title on Sunday, or will Senegal finally secure its first? And who will take third place – Cameroon or Burkina Faso?
Find out when you subscribe to Sling at just $5 for your first month of service. The battle for third place will be decided Saturday, Feb. 5, and the final will be held Sunday, Feb. 6. Tune into both games on beIN SPORTS Connect 6 for English commentary or beIN SPORTS Connect 8 for Arabic.