Mané scores decisive penalty as Senegal beat Egypt to win Africa Cup of Nations

Sadio Mané scored the winning kick as Senegal beat Egypt 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw to win the Africa Cup of Nations

It was a dreadful final to end a largely dreadful tournament but in the end it came down to a moment of the purest drama and the great redemption of Sadio Mané. He had missed a penalty in normal time. Senegal had wasted chance after chance. They had twice lost in finals before. Egypt are the kings of penalties. They had won their last six shootouts and had played for penalties from the off. But Mané, unexpectedly, was left with a penalty to win it.

It was not just that Abou Gabal had saved his earlier penalty, apparently after Mohamed Salah, Mané’s Liverpool teammate, had told him which way to dive. Mané had also missed against Kenya and Uganda in 2019 and, more consequently, the decisive kick in the quarter-final shootout against Cameroon in the quarter-final in 2017. And Abou Gabal had already saved five penalties in the tournament.

Mané took a long run-up and, with a great cathartic release, drilled his shot low and extremely hard to his left. Abou Gabal could not get down and Senegal, at last, had their first Cup of Nations triumph. Mané then embarked on a solo lap of honour, side-skipping delightedly with a Senegalese flag draped over his shoulders.

It turns out there is a limit to what can be achieved by anti-football. Senegal, as Cameroon had in the semi-final, occasionally threatened to get in behind the Egyptian full-backs, which brought the early penalty as Saliou Ciss was chopped down by Mohamed Abdelmonem. Too often when they did, though, the crossing and the decision-making was poor. And like Cameroon, they soon found themselves frustrated by Egypt’s spoiling, the feigning of injury, the long debates after every decision.

Senegal’s Sadio Mané speaks with Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Abou Gabal before his first-half penalty was saved.
Senegal’s Sadio Mané speaks with Egypt’s Mohamed Salah and Abou Gabal before his first-half penalty was saved. Photograph: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Senegal must bear their share of the blame. They were not good enough to break Egypt down and allowed themselves to be dragged into the gamesmanship, playing far too slowly, allowing Egypt time to regroup – but at least there were occasions when they tried to play. And it is hard to play when there are 52 fouls in the game, when the ball is in play for only 40 minutes and 26 seconds of normal time – more than a fifth less than is usual.

For that the South African referee, Victor Gomes, must take responsibility. He did not crack down on cynical fouling, seemed reluctant to deploy his yellow card and, disgracefully, played only five minutes of added time across two halves of normal time. Little wonder Egypt have so little time for the Gambian official Bakary Gassama, who has been the only official in this tournament prepared to stand up to them. Mané, too, it should be said, could easily have seen a second yellow card when he appeared to dive but by then Gomes seemed to have given up.

What makes it baffling is that Egypt are clearly a decent side. Perhaps they are not the same calibre as the team that won three Cups of Nations in a row between 2006 and 2010: Salah aside, there is nobody of the class of Ahmed Hassan, nobody with the drive of Mohamed Hosny or the invention of Mohamed Abou Treika, but they have shown in flashes that they are better than this. They could offer more than just spoiling and giving it to Salah, and yet they did not at any point in the tournament. It was in keeping with their general gracelessness that they left the pitch before Senegal were presented with their medals.

The reaction of Egyptians on social media would suggest they are not bothered by how their side plays but will their fans really look back at videos of this tournament to revel in their progress? Look, there’s Salah arguing with the referee! Celebrate Abou Gabal taking an age of a goal-kick! Goggle at Ahmed Abou El Fotouh committing a cynical foul! Rejoice in Abou Gabal receiving treatment! Welcome to the shithouse of fun!

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

No side had ever won a tournament via three penalty shootouts but, given Abou Gabal’s aptitude and Senegal’s obvious anxiety, Egypt seemed the more likely winner once the 120 minutes had ended goalless. Abdelmonem’s penalty was two inches from being perfect but, with Mendy sprawling the wrong way, it pinged off the inside of the post. Immediately, though, that was cancelled out as Bouna Sarr’s effort was saved by Abou Gabal.

But when Édouard Mendy saved from Mohanad Lasheen, suddenly the advantage was back with Senegal and it was all down to Mané. He had converted one late against Zimbabwe in the group stage having only recently returned to spot-kick duty. In truth, it is only really his celebrity that has him taking them; Senegal probably should look to somebody better. But the narrative demanded it should come down to Mané. He delivered and so, after a detour to the elderly Cameroonian president, Paul Biya, in the stand, Kalidou Koulibaly became the first Senegalese player ever to lift the trophy.


Jonathan Wilson at the Olembe Stadium, Yaounde

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Senegal beat Egypt on penalties to win Africa Cup of Nations final – as it happened!
Sadio Mané scored the decisive penalty in the shootout to win Senegal’s first-ever Africa Cup of Nations

Will Unwin

06, Feb, 2022 @10:17 PM

Article image
Querulous Queiroz and his histrionic Egypt have the smarts to outwit Senegal | Jonathan Wilson
Billing Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final as a clash of Salah and Mané misses the wider point in a shambolic tournament

Jonathan Wilson

05, Feb, 2022 @8:00 PM

Article image
Salah’s Egypt to face Mané’s Senegal in final after shootout win over Cameroon
Egypt beat Cameroon 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out to set up a final with Senegal and end the host nation’s hopes

Nick Ames at Stade Olembé

03, Feb, 2022 @9:58 PM

Article image
2017 Africa Cup of Nations draw: Algeria and Senegal face off in Group B
Hosts Gabon were handed a favourable draw for January’s Africa Cup of Nations, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s side to face Cameroon, Burkina Faso and debutants Guinea-Bissau in Group A while the heavyweights Algeria and Senegal will face off in Group B

Ed Aarons

19, Oct, 2016 @7:07 PM

Article image
Mohamed Salah’s nerveless shootout penalty takes Egypt past Ivory Coast
Egypt drew 0-0 with Ivory Coast but progressed to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals after Eric Bailly’s penalty was saved and Mohamed Salah struck the winning spot-kick

Jonathan Wilson at the Japoma Stadium, Douala

26, Jan, 2022 @7:04 PM

Article image
Africa Cup of Nations review: sorrow, anger and Mané’s redemption
Our writers relive their highs and lows of a tournament completely overshadowed by the Olembe Stadium tragedy

Nick Ames and Jonathan Wilson in Yaoundé

07, Feb, 2022 @9:00 PM

Article image
Head injury charity pressures Fifa after Senegal’s Sadio Mané hospitalised
Headway say Sadio Mané should have been substituted in Senegal’s Afcon win over Cape Verde and that concussion protocols should rule the player out of Sunday’s quarter-final

Andy Hunter

26, Jan, 2022 @11:53 AM

Article image
Afcon 2017: a group-by-group guide to the Africa Cup of Nations
The players, teams and managers to look out for as Ivory Coast defend their title in Gabon in the tournament that kicks off on Saturday

Paul Doyle

12, Jan, 2017 @10:09 AM

Article image
Sadio Mané seals Senegal’s passage to Afcon final as Burkina Faso blown away
Burkina Faso were powerless to stop a late onslaught as Sadio Mané sealed Senegal’s place in the Africa Cup of Nations final with a 3-1 win

Jonathan Wilson at Stade Omnisport Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde

02, Feb, 2022 @9:10 PM

Article image
Senegal 1-0 Zimbabwe: Africa Cup of Nations 2022 – as it happened
Minute-by-minute report: Senegal won three points they scarcely deserved courtesy of a Sadio Mane penalty that was awarded in the closing seconds of added time

Barry Glendenning

10, Jan, 2022 @3:11 PM