As is often the case, the final of a major tournament wasn’t exactly the most entertaining in pure footballing terms — especially one featuring Carlos Quieroz’s sufferball — but there was still plenty of drama in the 120 scoreless minutes between Senegal and Egypt tonight in Yaoundé.
Senegal, one of the pre-tournament favorites, were hoping to do one better than two years ago, when they lost to Algeria in the final. They had been to the final in 2002 as well, but also lost — their current head coach, Aliou Cissé, missed the decisive penalty. Meanwhile, seven-time winners Egypt but beaten finalists in 2017, were looking for their first title since 2010.
There were big stars on both sides, most notably Liverpool duo Mo Salah and Sadio Mané facing off against each other, but the game was more notable for its intensity, for its large number of fouls (50+ combined), and a missed penalty early on from Mané that might have changed the course of things.
Senegal were probably the “better” of the two sides, wasteful as they may have been, which meant that Édouard Mendy had little to do other than a good save late on to preserve his clean sheet — just like in the Champions League final! The Chelsea No.1 had looked uncharacteristically shaky and nervous at times however, and given his prior record in penalty shootouts, Egypt were surely the favored team heading into the deciding spot kicks.
But Édou defied that narrative and made a save when it truly mattered the most. Egypt also hit the woodwork with one of their kicks, which meant that Mané could atone for his earlier miss and seal to shootout win, 4-2. Salah didn’t even get to go: this is why you don’t put your best player as the fifth taker.
Édouard Mendy, Champion of Europe and now, Champion of Africa! (And next week, Champion of the World?)