Friday night will see two of Africa’s best teams face off in the AFCON 2019 final, hosted by the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt. There’s no debating both teams’ quality and their deservedness of making it this far, with the pair displaying some phenomenal moments for fans and neutral viewers alike. This is billed as being one of the best AFCON finals for quite some time due to the attacking nature of the two, and with added tension after the drama during the group stages when they last met, this is a game nobody can afford to miss.
Liverpool winger Sadio Mane said that he would trade his Champions League medal for gold with Senegal in the AFCON this summer, and he is ninety – or more – minutes from adding both to his collection. The attacker has been at the centre of most things for his country in the tournament up to now, amassing four goal involvements, including three for himself. The journey started against Tanzania, who they saw off comfortably by two goals to nil, but what came next will set up Friday’s meeting perfectly. Senegal were defeated by Algeria in the group stage and that result ultimately led to their opponents topping the table, however supporters were adamant that Senegal should have been awarded a penalty for a challenge on Mane which would have provided them with a chance to level the score. It was not given by the referee and thus, Senegal were forced to get three points versus Kenya. They did that with ease, winning 0-3, and went on to take on Uganda in the Round of 16. Mane was the hero on that occasion as he netted the only goal of the day after fifteen minutes, subsequently leading to a clash against Benin in the quarter final. This time it was a player from the blue half of Merseyside who grabbed the all important goal as Idrissa Gana Gueye lit his name up in lights after seventy minutes, allowing Senegal to advance to the semi final where they faced Tunisia, a formidable, well-organized opponent. Normal time failed to separate the two so it had to be extra time, and it was past the one-hundred minute mark when Dylan Bronn hit into his own net to see Senegal over the finish line.
Algeria’s star player is Manchester City attacker Riyad Mahrez, and the former Leicester City man has not disappointed so far. He will be aiming to outplay Sadio Mane and potentially put himself into contention for the Ballon D’Or, while also earning his fourth gold medal of 2019. Algeria began AFCON 2019 against Kenya and kept a clean sheet, running out 2-0 victors in the end. Succeeding that match was the dramatic, yet low-scoring meeting with fellow finalists Senegal where they took all three precious points despite a dubious decision by the referee, and a final day group stage win over Tanzania made sure of their position atop the Group B standings. The Round of 16 saw Algeria faced with the task of overcoming Guinea at the 30 June Stadium, although any questions regarding their ability to do so were soon quashed when Mohamed Youcef Belaili bagged twenty-four minutes in which opened the doors for Mahrez and Adam Ounas to double and triple their advantage in the second half. In spite of winning Group B, it’s arguable that Algeria actually got the more difficult draw as their quarter final fixture was a tough one versus Ivory Coast. Sofiane Feghouli notched the opener with twenty minutes played, but Baghdad Bounedjah missed a penalty which would have put them two in front prior to Jonathan Kodjia’s equaliser as the clock read sixty-two minutes. Neither side could find another goal and therefore, it was to be decided on penalties. Algeria scored four, Ivory Coast netted three, meaning it was Algeria who progressed to the semi finals and they could start dreaming if they weren’t already. The semi final was by no means an easy game either, even with a first half own goal from William Troost-Etong providing Algeria with an advantage going into the interval. Former Watford attacker Odion Ighalo got on the scoresheet from twelve yards, but it was Mahrez who grabbed the headlines with a magnificently struck free-kick right at the death to see his side through to the final.
Edouard Mendy had his AFCON cut short when he suffered a broken hand earlier in the tournament, and he is the sole injury concern for Senegal as they get ready for this crucial tie. We can see Senegal lining up in a 4-3-3, just as they did versus Tunisia and Benin, mostly due to the fact that Algeria have already played against them when they used a 4-4-2. Alfred Gomis should keep his spot as goalkeeper, behind central defensive duo Cheikhou Kouyate and Kalidou Koulibaly. The midfield will be made up of Idrissa Gana Gueye, Henri Saivet and Badou Ndiaye, while Krepin Diatta, M’Baye Niang and Sadio Mane should start as a devastating attacking front three.
Youcef Atal could miss out due to a shoulder injury, but most fans will be majorly concerned with Sofiane Feghouli’s apparent injury that will keep him out for a few days, although he may return just in time for the game. In this affair, we expect Algeria to start as a 4-4-2, similar to the first meeting with Senegal and identical to their clash versus Guinea in the Last 16. Rais M’Bolhi will keep his spot as goalkeeper, while Mehdi Zeffane will continue to cover Attal in right-back. The centre backs should be Ramy Bensebaini and Aissa Mandi, with a four man midfield of Riyad Mahrez on the right and Adiene Guedioura to the left, accompanying Ismael Bennacer and Feghouli, if he is fit enough to start. In attack, it’s likely that Bounedjah will partner Youcef Belaili.
Both these sides love to attack, although their defensive structures are mightily impressive and there have been few goals in recent outings. In each of Senegal’s last three games they have scored just once, while Algeria have scored three times in their past two games. For these reasons we are going for exactly three goals in total with Skybet as our first tip at 7/2. Algeria have experience of beating Senegal, having done so in the group stage, and will be very confident in their ability to come away on top from this one. Due to their previous victory over Senegal and their unbeaten run in the competition, as well as the never-say-die attitude that has taken them this far, we’re looking to Algeria to win and BTTS at 13/2 with Skybet for our second bet of the day. Algeria won 1-2 last time out against Nigeria when they were seriously under pressure to find something from nothing, so we can envision something like that happening on Friday. At 11/1, a 1-2 result in favour of Algeria looks good as our final tip with Skybet.