Senegal’s golden generation of players, featuring stars such as Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy, were tipped for big things before the tournament and went unbeaten in both the group and knockout stages. This was in part thanks to the player of the tournament performances of Mane at the front, and the goalkeeper of the tournament performances of Mendy between the sticks. Their favourable knockout run to the final saw them trump Burkina Faso in the semi-finals, with Cape Verde and Equitorial Guinea making up the rest of their journey. Egypt however faced a tougher run, knocking out Ivory Coast on penalties in the Round of 16, then going through Morocco and Cameroon in order to book their place in the finals.
The game captivated fans of the African game, and drew extra British attention due to the story of the Liverpool teammates Salah and Mane facing off in the final, but disappointed in 90 minutes with both teams relatively cagey playstyles, appearing to be wary of losing more than hungry to win. When chances did come they fell largely on Senegal’s side, but Egyptian keeper Mohamed Abou Gabal, or Gabaski as he is known, produced a masterclass including a penalty save to deny Mane in normal time. This display led to the score remaining blank within 90 minutes, necessitating a goalless period of extra time, and eventually penalties.
The penalties, which resulted in a 4-2 scoreline in favour of Senegal, saw Salah denied the chance to take a penalty due to his position in the order, and handed Mane the golden penalty which he dispatched confidently to put an end to the tournament. AFCON 2022 saw refereeing controversy, football upsets, tragedy in the stadiums and excitement across the continent and football world, and the emergence of young talent representing at the tournament would suggest the future of African football is bright.