There have been several upsets in this year’s AFCON tournament as a number of giants have fallen. On Tuesday, 25 January, Senegal will make their bid to remain off this list when they take on Cape Verde in the Last 16.
Ghana, Algeria, and Nigeria have been knocked out of the competition, despite being tipped as the tournament favourites and boasting star players in Europe. They quickly realized that the game is won on the pitch and not necessarily on paper in football. Having big-name players doesn’t always guarantee you a victory at AFCON. This tournament is one of the most demanding international competitions to play in. Simply because of its unpredictable nature and surprise element.
Senegal, who have some of the biggest names in football, are aware of what happened to their rivals but do not want to follow suit and head to head to an early exit in the tournament. The Lions of Teranga have had a very challenging AFCON. They have had to play with a depleted squad after their senior players contracted Covid-19.
Head coach Aliou Cisse had to do without his star players like Chelsea’s Eduoard Mendy and field fringe player. Nevertheless, Senegal has managed to finish their group in the first place! They have secured one win and two draws to finish with five points.
They only scored one goal and have kept three clean sheets so far in the tournament. Senegal will, however, look at Liverpool’s Sadio Mane to provide the spark in front of the goal. They will need the attacker to lead from the front and score those crucial goals in the knockout stages to progress further in the tournament. Their defence has proven themselves worthy adversaries, in shielding the net from any threat, so that removes an element of worry from the head coach.
Cape Verde will be openly plotting and attacking Senegal’s goal on Tuesday. The Island nation has gradually seen growth in its football skills, punching above its weight when given a chance. They are currently in their third AFCON campaign, having appeared in 2013 and 2015, giving them unbeatable experience for their 2022 campaign. They collected enough points to make it to the knockout stage, edging past Cameroon and Burkina Faso in their group, a significant achievement.
What lies ahead of them is a difficult challenge. So how do they go about it? First, they will have to be tight at the back, stay in the game for a long time and hope to get to the penalty shoot-out lottery.
Penalties are the only hope for Cape Verde, should they go to extra time, as they will not have enough to defeat the Senegalese team in open play for 120 minutes.
Senegal wants to reach the final and lift the AFCON trophy; with Cape Verde in their way in the last 16, they will want to blow them out of the water and make a statement.
A convincing win will have Senegal’s rivals scared. However, they should defeat Cape Verde 3-0 to progress to the quarter-finals.
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