Senegal, Algeria set for rematch in Africa Cup of Nations final


Cairo (AFP) – Sadio Mane’s Senegal and an Algeria side captained by Riyad Mahrez will attempt to secure their place in Africa Cup of Nations history in Friday’s final in Cairo.

Senegal, the 2002 runners-up, are desperate to end a long wait for a first continental title, while Algeria are looking to add to the trophy they lifted as hosts 29 years ago. 

With the stakes so high passions are mounting across the continent and elsewhere, notably in France where celebrations have overflowed into violence earlier in the tournament.

For Senegal, Africa’s top ranked side, the ride to the final has encountered its share of bumps in the road but there is little doubt the showpiece at the 75,000-capacity Cairo International Stadium will feature the tournament’s two standout teams.

A Youcef Belaili goal gave Algeria a 1-0 win when the countries met in the group stage, but this time there is no second chance with Cup of Nations immortality awaiting the victor.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference,” said Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse is on a mission for personal redemption as the skipper of the side beaten on penalties in the 2002 final, when his missed kick handed the title to Cameroon.

“Having lost that final, I still have it on my mind,” said Cisse. “What motivated me to become a coach was to be able to take Senegal to the final. My players told me they would do better than my generation.”

“Algeria are a great team and we respect them,” he added. “We’re in the final now and determined to win.”

Liverpool star Mane is hoping to become one of just a handful of Africans to win both the UEFA Champions League and Cup of Nations.

“I’m ready to even swap a Champions League for a Cup of Nations. Going to Dakar with the trophy would be extraordinary. It would be my wildest dream,” Mane told France Football ahead of the competition.

Standing in the way, however, is an Algerian outfit that has undergone a remarkable transformation since the arrival of the straight-talking Belmadi as coach a year ago.

– Senegal missing banned Koulibaly –

The Desert Foxes crashed out of the 2017 edition in the first round and flopped badly in World Cup qualifying, but former Qatar boss Belmadi has healed divisions in the squad to lead his nation to the brink of a first continental crown on foreign land.

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