AFCON 2021: Mane and Senegal peaking at the right time after booking semi-final spot

The Teranga Lions have qualified for the semifinals of AFCON 2021
The Teranga Lions have qualified for the semifinals of AFCON 2021

No team had managed to score three goals since the knockout round of the ongoing 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) began. Then Senegal showed up.

The Teranga Lions made a slow start to the tournament and coach Aliou Cisse came under intense pressure following the team's poor displays.

They weren't losing but their performances weren't impressive either. In the last few days, though, Senegal have rolled the dice and upped the ante.

And on Sunday, the Lions secured a place in the semifinals of the AFCON after coasting to a 3-1 victory over a stubborn Equatorial Guinea.

Teranga Lions make light work of Equatorial Guinea

Cisse's side opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, with Sadio Mane setting up Famara Diedhiou to score.

From there, the Lions dominated play and looked set to add to their opponents' misery. However, a surprise equalizer from Jannick Buyla Sam threatened to make the night a long one.

Senegal, though, made use of their quality bench, with Cheikhou Kouyate and Ismaila Sarr coming on to score to hand the Lions a 3-1 win.

Their route to the final is perhaps the most favorable as they prepare to face Burkina Faso in the last four. Although it will be a difficult game, it's certainly winnable.

Senegal peaking at the right time

Senegal have had a false reputation since the start of the AFCON. Despite arriving at the tournament as one of the favorites, they haven't really glittered.

The Lions were not impressive in the group stage, where they amassed five points and scored just a single goal against Malawi, Zimbabwe and Guinea.

However, they've been getting better and better in the knockout rounds. They defeated Cape Verde 2-0 in the round of 16 and have now followed it up with another impressive result against Equatorial Guinea in the quarterfinals.

"We played a hard-fought game against a good Equatorial Guinean team. We had the mentality to score three goals," Senegal coach Cisse said after the game, as quoted by CAF Online.
"We must congratulate the opposing team who were technically capable of creating problems for us. We must remember a good victory tonight, synonymous with qualifying for the semi-finals.
"We have had a very difficult start to our preparations, but we worked well afterwards and today we are gaining momentum. We must not get carried away because against Burkina Faso, it will be a big battle."

The Lions are peaking at the right time as the tournament reaches its business end. Having lost the final in 2019, Cisse's side could reach a second successive final if they beat Burkina Faso in the semis.

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Edited by Arjun Panchadar
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