Sadio Mané seals Senegal’s passage to AFCON final as Burkina Faso stunned | Africa Cup of Nations 2022


For a long time, it wasn’t pretty, but with this Senegalese team, that’s rarely the case. Not that they will care. Senegal are the big under-achievers in the Africa Cup of Nations and if they beat Cameroon or Egypt on Sunday to lift the trophy for the first time, no one will care much how they did. do. Aliou Cissé’s job is not to entertain but to win.

It was a match that followed Cissé’s classic pattern: ironclad solidity to begin with, gradually pressing the opponent into fouls before late strikes: eight of the nine goals Senegal scored in Cameroon came after the hour mark. Game.

The breakthrough here came in the 70th minute, a corner dropping into the box for Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Abdou Diallo to latch onto. The second was knocked down by Idrissa Gueye after Sadio Mané overworked Bouna Sarr before cutting the ball away. Mané then secured the decisive third with a deft finish at the break.

In truth, they could easily have taken the lead before half-time. Twice, Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema awarded Senegal penalties and twice overturned them after VAR reviews. Hervé Koffi, the Burkinabé goalkeeper, first hit Cheikhou Kouyaté but the video showed that his fist had just – just – come into contact with the ball in front of the skull of the Palace midfielder. Koffi, however, ended up being taken out on a stretcher.

Given the rigor of the interpretation of handball in this tournament, the second decision was less clear-cut: Idrissa Gueye’s shot hit the elbow of central defender Edmond Tapsoba, but it was at his side that he s is diverted. Zimbabwe, who conceded a similar late penalty against Senegal in their opener, may have been surprised.

But it was not just about events on the ground. For the Burkinabe players, perhaps their anthem had added meaning on Wednesday night. It was written by former President Thomas Sankara, who changed the country’s name to Upper Volta in 1984 and is widely considered the father of the nation. He was assassinated in 1987 in a coup; last year, his former deputy Blaise Compaoré, who succeeded him as president, was tried in absentia for his murder. However, since the January 23 military coup, all legal proceedings have ceased.

The players had watched news of the coup on a television in their hotel in Garoua. A fortnight earlier, ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré had sent them a message of good luck. Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the coup leader, spoke with the director, Kamou Malo, himself a former police chief.

Abdou Diallo (right) celebrates after scoring the first goal in Yaoundé. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

The curfew that the military had imposed on Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, after being ignored in celebrations after the quarter-final victory over Tunisia, was lifted for this match. “The events are an additional motivation for us,” Malo said, “because we know that everything we do will be remembered by our people.”

Even without that context, it’s an achievement worth remembering. It was Burkina Faso’s third semi-final in nine years, a remarkable statistic for a nation that had previously only reached the group stage once – and that on home soil. They’re a great young team, and the way they fought to get one out despite Ibrahim Blati Toure’s knee volley spoke to their character. There’s no reason why this team can’t go even further in the next few years.

This Senegalese team, however, only cares about the here and now. Sunday is their second straight final, their third overall, and they won’t have much more of a chance of finally winning their first Nations Cup than with this group of players and this more pragmatic of managers.


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