Senegal has won their first African Cup of Nations title ever in an intense final against Egypt. Egypt has reached the final on a strong defense; every play-off match went into extra time, and the side managed by Carlos Queiroz appeared to believe they could win the title in the same way.
And they almost did: in a prelude of what was to come Senegal got a penalty kick at the start of the match, but Sadio Mané's hard shot was saved by the Egyptian goalkeeper from Zamalek, Gabaski.
Gabaski was simply splendid throughout the match, and caught everything that got through the otherwise strong and organised Egyptian defense, and as the match went into extra time and penalties with the score 0-0 one had to wonder whether Egypt's plan would work with a goalkeeper that seemed invincible on the day.
But Senegal deservedly prevailed in a nerve-wrecking penalty competition, despite one excellent save from Gabaski on one of the Senegalese shots. But with one shot on the post and a save from Edouard Mendy (perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment, although Gabaski clearly outshined him today, and very unusually, but deservedly, was made Man of the Match) gave Sadio Mané the opportunity to shoot the victorious penalty kick for Senegal, soon forgetting the penalty kick during the match.
It was the best thing for African football that Senegal won, as they have been the best team throughout the tournament, and despite feeling sorry for Gabaski, Egypt were simply a team defending their way through the tournament. It was also great to see an African manager, Aliou Cissé, managed his side to the title in a continent where too many second rate foreign coaches have managed teams.
It has been a good tournament, but now ten of the teams must look forward to the World Cup playoff matches in March. In fact, Senegal and Egypt will be facing one another for a spot in Qatar in a repeat of today's final, so one of the teams will be missing out of the World Cup. I hope it will be Egypt and would be delighted to see Senegal continue their celebrations!
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