AFCON: Senegal beats Burkina Faso to book spot in final as Cameroon or Egypt await

Abdou Diallo broke the deadlock with a scrappy goal on 70 minutes, turning the ball home following a corner kick, before an error in the Burkinabe defense allowed Sadio Mane to set up Idrissa Gueye.

However, Burkina Faso refused to go down without a fight and Blati Toure gave The Stallions a glimmer of hope with eight minutes remaining, using his knee to divert Issa Kabore’s cross past Edouard Mendy in the Senegalese goal.

But with Burkina Faso chasing a late equalizer, Mane exposed the defense on the counterattack and chipped the ball over the onrushing Farid Ouedraogo to seal the win for The Lions of Teranga.

“It shows you the momentum we have,” Mane said after the match. “We knew it was not going to be at all easy to get to two straight AFCON finals, but the most important for us now is to go all the way and win it, whoever we come up against.

“We were up against a really good Burkina side who caused us a lot of problems. We expected a tough game, and it was, but we stayed calm and created lots of chances. I think we deserved to win tonight.”

Senegal players celebrate after Abdou Diallo opened the scoring.

Despite the country producing numerous talented players over the years, Senegal has remarkably never won an AFCON title.

Aliou Cisse’s side also reached the final in 2019, eventually losing 1-0 to Algeria and the current crop of players will certainly be feeling the weight of expectation to finally end Senegal’s AFCON heartache.

The current team — the top-ranked side on the continent — is full of talented players, representing clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

“I think you can see on my face how happy I am which is completely normal,” Mane added. “I am really proud personally and very happy for myself, my teammates and the country.”

Mane said he and his teammates had “no preference” to which side they would rather face in Sunday’s final, with either Egypt or Cameroon awaiting them.

Egypt reached the semifinals with a 2-1 extra time win over Morocco, while Cameroon beat The Gambia 2-0.

Cameroon's forward Vincent Aboubakar is the tournament's top goalscorer.

The Pharaohs have some considerable injury concerns at the back, with stalwart defender Ahmed Hegazi out for the remainder of the tournament and the team’s first and second choice goalkeepers also missing due to injury.

It’s likely third choice goalkeeper Mohamed Sobhy will once again deputize after coming on during extra time of Egypt’s quarterfinal.

Fortunately, however, talisman Mo Salah is fit to once again lead the front line and comes into the semifinal fresh from scoring a goal and providing an assist against Morocco.

Host Cameroon has no such injury concerns and, in striker Vincent Aboubakar, boasts AFCON 2021’s top goalscorer and arguably the player of the tournament so far.

Aboubakar has notched six goals and teammate Karl Toko Ekambi is not far behind with five. Stopping the attacking duo is a daunting task for Egypt’s hobbled back line and five-time champion Cameroon will likely be considered the favorite to reach the final on home soil.

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