While we could say that the summer break is almost over for European domestic leagues, it feels more like we should be calling it the international break because we’ve had a series of really entertaining international tournaments to sink our teeth into over the course of the last few months. There have been highs and lows, but along the way, we’ve really enjoyed seeing what these nations have had to offer.
Now, we’re at the final stopping point before the big boys get going again, as we prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations final in Cairo. The game will be contested between Senegal and Algeria who, by all accounts, have done a phenomenal job of earning their place in the final.
Senegal have struggled to really blow teams out of the water more often than not so far, but all the while, they do seem to be a force to be reckoned with from a defensive point of view. They’ve been able to keep out the majority of sides they’ve faced, with the only team to break their resistance being Algeria themselves in the group stages. From a psychological standpoint, you’d have to imagine that will have some kind of impact, but it all depends on how Senegal have been able to adjust and improve.
Their key man is going to be Sadio Mane who has been a consistent force so far in the tournament, despite the fact that he has missed a few key opportunities along the way. This is going to be one of the biggest games of his entire career, and you’d like to think that he will be able to step up to the plate when it matters the most.
On the other hand, Algeria have been steadily flying under the radar as one of the most consistent teams in the entire AFCON. They weren’t really looked upon as major contenders when it all got underway, but they’ve been able to outlast every single team they’ve come up against. Following his sensational last minute free kick winner in the semis, it’s clear to see that he is going to be the main danger man for Algeria. If they stick him on set pieces and allow him to run at Senegal, he could cause some problems from the first minute right up until the very last kick of the game.
This is going to be a fascinating battle of styles between these two nations who, let’s not forget, have both represented Africa on the world stage at the World Cup in recent years. That level of experience is key in an environment like this one, because players that sometimes hide away in the background will be forced into a situation whereby they need to make a decision: will they sink, or will they swim?
The bookmakers have already had their say, but in the end, nobody knows what is going to happen until that whistle blows and the lights are on bright.