Senegal are billed to fight with Algeria on Friday for the right to become the champions of Africa but is there more at stake?
The stakes will be as high as it possibly could when Sadio Mane’s Teranga Lions roar down the throat of Riyadh Mahrez’s Desert Foxes in the ‘battle of the wild’.
What is at stake, though?
The Africa Cup of Nations title
That’s the obvious. After three weeks of total football like never before, Africa will have a new champion.
— CAF (@CAF_Online) July 18, 2019
Any of these two sides would be worthy winners but unusual champions.
The two nations have only appeared in the final of this tournament a combined three times. That’s four less than as many trophies as Egypt have won.
Senegal have never been champions. Algeria have won it just once and have not been in the final since then, a huge 29 years ago.
This really is an unusual final.
Battle of the local coaches
One thing is already decided: an indigenous coach will win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nation.
Djamel Belmadi was an accomplished midfielder in his playing days and was once on the books of Paris St Germain and Marseille.
The former Algeria international did ot win any title in his playing days but that can change tonight.
Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse was a member of that incredible Teranga Lions squad that rocked the boat of world football in the early 2000s. That team got to the finals of the Nations Cup – Senegal’s only time in history – and then went on to perform wonders at the World Cup.
He will be looking to go one step further this time.
Race for the Golden Boot and Golden Ball
This one is between Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez’s. Both forwards are on three goals and will need at least two goals to match Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo’s tally.
— CAF (@CAF_Online) July 19, 2019
That may be a tough ask in a game poised to be tight, closely fought and likely going to see few goals.
Above that is the chance to be named as the Player of the Tournament. The last one was won by Christian Bassogog whose Cameroon side lifted the trophy.
Irrespective of who scores more between the two wonderful talents, it is likely that the player whose team wins the championship will go home with the Golden Ball.
Africa Player of the Year
Later in the year, the jury will come out to decide which African player as had the most incredible year. This tournament will serve as the most crucial yardstick towards that.
Both Mane and Mahrez’s have had amazing seasons.
No one scored more goals than the Senegal forward in the Premier League while he was a key component in the Liverpool side that won the UEFA Champions League.
Mahrez, however, was part of a fantastic Manchester City side that romped to the League title in stunning fashion.
It is already a tough decision for those who will pick Africa’s best footballer. But the Nations Cup title could tilt the decision in the direction of the winner.
Who will it be: Sadio Mane or Riyadh Mahrez?
The Africa Cup of Nations final will kick off by 8 pm Nigerian time.