By (William D. Ezah,
GNA Special Correspondent, Cairo, Egypt, courtesy Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited)
Accra, July 12, GNA - The Teranga Lions of Senegal, have never won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) since their existence in association football and the 32nd edition presents them with a perfect opportunity to re-write history and place their name in the hall of fame of AFCON.
However, this would not come on a silver platter as they lock horns with Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in the semi-finals of the on-going tournament on Sunday, July 14, at June 30 Stadium in Cairo, Egypt.
The Teranga Lions on their way to the semi-finals defeated Benin by a lone goal, in the quarter finals to book their tickets into the semi-finals, courtesy a goal by their star midfielder Idrisu Gana Gay, having defeated Uganda in the Round of 16.
Coach Aliou Cisse is expected to do massive change in the line-up, as his side have no fresh injury or suspension concerns; with the only selection headache is to choose between Keita Balde and Ismaila Sarr on the wings.
The 2002 finalist are the favourites to advance to the finals, having conceded only one goal in their last five appearances in the AFCON with seven goals scored.
Sadio Mane, the star man for the Tarenga Lions is having a good tournament so far with three goals scored despite missing two penalties which could have increased his tally to five goals.
Defender Kalidu Koulibaly has been in a great form for Napoli in the past three years and would also lead the defence line of the Senegalese, who had kept four clean sheets out of the five games played so far.
Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy picked up an injury in the tournament opener against Tanzania, and would remain out of contention.
Senegal key Statistics
Senegal had won four of their five games in AFCON and kept clean sheets in all of those victories.
Three of their five matches have been 0-0 at half-time, with five of their seven goals coming in the second half; it wouldn’t be surprised if Senegal secures the victory after the break.
The only blemish to their records in the tournament so far was a 1-0 defeat to Algeria at the group stage; a defeat which meant they finished second in their group.
Tunisia, on the other hand, recorded their first victory within 90 minutes, when they dumped tournament debutants Madagascar 3-0 in the quarter finals to qualify for the semi-finals, having defeated tournament favourites Ghana on penalty shootouts in the Round of 16.
The Eagles of Carthage players may not have the qualities as compared to their opponents but they have some experienced players who can perform to the task when the need arises in shape of Wahbi Khazri and Youssef Msakni.
Coach Alain Giresse was less impressive before the knockout stage, when they found it difficult to break the opponent defence but they have well organised defenders, which makes it difficult for any attack to break through.
The 2004 AFCON champions would have a fully fit squad to select from, after Wahbi Khazri recovered from a thigh injury to play in the quarter-finals.
Tunisia key Statistics
Tunisia, had stumbled their way into the semis, drawing all three group stage games and their last 16 tie with Ghana, which they subsequently won on penalties.
A comprehensive 3-0 thrashing of minnows Madagascar, was their first 90 minutes victory in this year’s AFCON.
Tunisia have won nine times against Senegal, drawing seven and losing four, making them historically the better side in clashes between the two in all competitions.
However, in their most recent AFCON game 2017, Senegal emerged victors as they defeated the Eagle of Carthage 2-0 in a group stage.