All to Play for as Senegal Battle Algeria in Epic AFCON Final

0
Sadio Mane...Senegal

Senegal forward Sadio Mane says he would swap his Champions League winning medal with Liverpool for winning the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday.

Senegal seek to win Afcon for the first time when they face Algeria in the final this evening in Cairo, Egypt.

Mane helped Liverpool beat Tottenham to win the Champions League final on 1 June, and has three goals in five starts at the Africa Cup of Nations.

“For sure, I would be ready even today (to swap),” Mane told BBC Sport.

The former Southampton player, 27, added: “Maybe I don’t need to swap when we win it hopefully.

“We know it won’t be easy but it’s normal, it’s part of football. Algeria is a great team and now I’m just looking forward to playing in the final and to win it.”

Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi said his side would “fight” to try and win the tournament for a second time.

“To the Algerian people, I want to say: I’m not a politician, not a miracle worker or a wizard,” he added.

“But we will fight like we have fought to this point.”

Senegal and Algeria met in the group stages, with 1990 champions Algeria winning 1-0.

The biggest team news is that Senegal’s star defender Kalidou Koulibaly will miss the game after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament in the semi-final win over Tunisia.

It is only the fifth Africa Cup of Nations final to have two African head coaches – and the first since 1998.

Senegal boss Aliou Cisse and Algeria’s Belmadi both played for their countries in the early 2000s.

Algeria have been the best team in the tournament, coming through a group including Friday’s opponents Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania with three wins.

They beat Guinea 3-0 in the last 16 and the Ivory Coast on penalties in the quarters.

Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez scored a dramatic free-kick with the last kick of the game as they beat Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final.

Senegal, after picking up six points in the group stages, won all their knockout games 1-0. They beat Uganda and Benin, and needed an extra-time own goal to get past Tunisia in the semi-finals.

Remarkably, for a team who have reached the World Cup quarter-finals, Senegal are not one of the 14 countries to have previously been crowned champions of Africa.

They have reached the Afcon final once, in 2002 – the year of that World Cup run – but lost the final on penalties to Cameroon. Cisse, their current head coach, missed the decisive penalty that day.

Algeria have played in two finals, both against Nigeria – losing in 1980 and winning in 1990.

The game sees two of the Premier League’s top players go head to head. Algeria captain Mahrez won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2018-19, with Mane a key part of the Liverpool team that conquered the Champions League.