Joy for Algeria as Senegal cope with Africa Cup heart-break
There was unconfined delight not only in Algeria but also in Paris after a strange goal decided the final of the Africa Cup in favour of the Fennecs. On the other side, for Senegal, there was only the pain of defeat.
After the game, which should have been the high point of his career, Schalke defender Salif Sane was inconsolable on the pitch of the Cairo International Stadium. Even his coach, Aliou Cisse, could not immediately lift his spirits after the 1-0 defeat to Algeria on Friday ensured Senegal's long wait to lift the African Cup of Nations would continue at least two more years. "Really disappointed not to have realised the dream of all people," Sane wrote later on social media.
Senegal, led by Liverpool's Champions League winner Sadio Mane, had a golden generation they believed would deliver a first title. But it was not the fleet-footed Mane who was decisive, rather an unfortunate intervention from Sane. The only goal came in just two minutes when Algeria's Baghdad Bounedjah pounced on a loose ball and took off towards the Senegal goal. When he cut inside to shoot there appeared to be little danger with Sane well placed to close him down. The block was not decisive though and the ball flew in a wild, looping arc over the goalkeeper only to drop steeply under the bar and just inside the post. "Let's learn from our mistakes to better bounce back," said Sane.
In the stands, ex-Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery was among those celebrating – his wife Wahiba has Algerian roots. The French-Algerian connection remains strong, as witnessed by tens of thousands of fans taking to the streets in Paris and other cities to celebrate. They have waited long enough to party. Unlike Senegal's Lions of Teranga, they have won the Africa Cup previously, but a considerable 29 years ago.
Liverpool star Mane worked hard as Senegal looked for an equalizer. They dominated possession and territory but the clear chance would not come. Mane posted a crying emoji on social media along with a picture of him walking past the trophy. "Tough times at the moment," wrote the player who last month celebrated winning the Champions League.
In contrast Algeria's golden boy, Riyad Mahrez, who won the English domestic treble with Manchester City, could hardly believe his happiness. "I am proud to have been captain of this team and of the millions of Algerians in the whole world who have supported us to the end," he said at full time.
Algeria's 1-0 victory drew the curtain on a tournament which started ominously. Not only had the venue been changed after Cameroon were stripped of hosting rights late last year, world governing body FIFA said it would take oversight of the operational management of continental organizers CAF following various corruption scandals. Egypt underperformed at their home event and after their early exit many stadiums were poorly attended for further games. Algeria, however, will care little for such matters even if they will soon loom large as Cameroon attempts to host the next edition in 2021. (dpa)