After each making their way through tightly contested semi-finals, Algeria and Senegal meet in the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on Friday (8pm live on Eurosport).
Algeria were tied with Nigeria into stoppage time of their semi-final before Riyad Mahrez stepped up to expertly convert a free-kick and send them through. Senegal and Tunisia went goalless through 90 minutes before an own goal in extra time saw Senegal advance.
The result is that two teams with just one Cup of Nations triumph between them, and just three combined appearances in the final, will compete to lift the 2019 trophy. It is the first contested during the summer months.
Algeria’s one and only previous success in the competition came in 1990. After a trio of poor showings, including a group-stage exit in Gabon two years ago, they are now just one match away from making good on the promise of the generation who so impressed in reaching the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup before being narrowly eliminated by Germany.
Tricky winger Mahrez is the most recognisable name to Premier League audiences following his league title successes with both Leicester City and Manchester City, but the Algeria squad is full of players plying their trade at teams in European competition. Joint top scorer Adam Ounas plays for Napoli, crafty midfielder Ismael Bennacer is on the verge of a move to AC Milan and central defender Aissa Mandi is a regular for Real Betis in Spain.
Algeria were not, though, considered one of the primary favourites prior to the start of the competition. They were around seventh favourites with most British bookmakers, at odds of around 12/1, and were only the 11th highest ranked side in terms of the FIFA rankings (in 68th). They topped their group with three wins out of three, and have since eliminated two more heavily fancied teams in Ivory Coast and Nigeria to book their place in this Africa Cup of Nations final.
There awaits another side who were more favoured coming into the tournament. Senegal were second only to hosts Egypt (and level with Ghana) in most bookies’ lists, at odds of around 6/1. They have made good on that, traversing an easier route to the final by defeating Uganda, Benin and Tunisia by three consecutive 1-0 score lines.
As a player, Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was part of the side who reached the country’s one and only Cup of Nations final in 2002. He will be keen to make better memories this time around. Then, he was one of three players who missed a penalty in the shootout as Senegal lost out 2-3 to Cameroon following a 0-0 draw through normal and extra time.
Cisse took charge following Senegal’s group-stage exit at the 2015 Cup of Nations, led them to the quarter-finals in Gabon two years ago and successfully secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup, where they were somewhat unfortunate to be eliminated in the group stage. He has formed a defensively minded team who have conceded just once in six matches at this tournament and more globally, just twice in their last 12 internationals.
With the imperious Napoli central defender Kalidou Koulibaly leading the backline and the tireless Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye patrolling the centre, there are strong defensive foundations. Up front, Cisse can then count on the pace and incisiveness of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, the team’s top scorer with three goals (in addition to one assist), to get the goals necessary to see his side to victory.
It has been enough to overcome five of the six sides Senegal have faced to date, but not the one they encounter in Friday’s final. In the second match of the group stage, Algeria recorded a 1-0 victory over Senegal, with Youcef Belaili scoring the decisive goal early into the second half. Chances were relatively evenly distributed, although Algeria did struggle to deal with Senegal’s threat from set pieces. That might just prove to be a crucial difference between the sides in the final.
Our Preview’s Senegal vs. Algeria Africa Cup of Nations Final Betting Tips Verdict
Algeria have conceded just twice so far. In what is likely to be a cagey affair with a limited number of chances, the combined menace of Mane in open play and Koulibaly and others from set-pieces might just be enough to see Senegal to a first Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
- Bet on Senegal to win @ best odds of 9/5 with Betfred.
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