Football: Experience will stand Senegal in good stead for final, says Mane

Senegal players celebrating their first goal during the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final football match against Burkina Faso on Feb 2, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

YAOUNDE (REUTERS, AFP) - Senegal's experience of playing in the last Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final will be a "good asset" for them in Sunday's (Feb 6) title decider, said forward Sadio Mane.

Senegal, who beat Burkina Faso 3-1 on Wednesday (Feb 2) to reach the final, have yet to win the continental title but came close in Cairo in 2019.

Senegal will play either hosts Cameroon or Egypt in Sunday's final at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde. The second semi-final is on Thursday (Feb 4).

Cameroon and Egypt are the most successful sides in Afcon history with 12 titles between them, while the Lions of Teranga are still searching for their first continental crown, two and a half years after losing to Algeria in the final in Cairo.

"Experience is a good asset," said Mane, who scored Senegal's third on Wednesday. "I think that has always been the case since the start of this tournament. We suffered so much with a lot of Covid cases and several injuries too.

"We had a very difficult time but with our experience we kept calm until we recovered the whole group.

"We played a final last time, so we have experience and we will try to win this trophy."

Senegal were also runners-up in 2002, the year they went to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea and beat holders France in the opening game and became just the second African country to reach the quarter-finals.

The comparisons between that generation and the current side have increased as Senegal progressed through the tournament.

"There are a lot of leaders in this team because we have a lot of great players and a lot of mature players. Everyone is making a contribution so that the team can move forward," added Mane.

On Wednesday, they had two penalties awarded in the first half only for the Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa to change his mind both times following a VAR (video assistant referee) review.

However, they showed their tenacity, going ahead just after the midway point in the second period when Paris Saint-Germain defender Abdou Diallo popped up in the box to produce a striker’s finish.

The second arrived on 76 minutes as Mane provided a superb assist for Idrissa Gana Gueye, also of PSG, to score, and Mane completed the win late on after Blati Toure had pulled a goal back.

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