So it all comes down to this. We couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic final for the Africa Cup of Nations as Senegal take on Algeria following two tense semi-finals that saw each side pushed to the limit. We’re likely to see a similarly nail-biting affair here.
It’s not the first time these two have met in this tournament though. Both were part of Group C, which Algeria topped after winning all three encounters, including a tight 1-0 win over Senegal. But that’s not the only reason Algeria has to be confident. They have been astoundingly impressive this whole tournament, sweeping aside the opposition with finesse.
On the other hand, they already know how tough Senegal are to beat. In fact, when they first met in the group stages, most people predicted a Senegal victory. That loss is certainly significant but far from enough to count a team as talented and as tenacious as Senegal out here.
Senegal vs Algeria Prediction: Senegal 2-1 Algeria
They hardly get much tighter than this. We could certainly see this ending in a penalty shoot out, but it’s likely that the pressure each of these teams can put on will make one side give eventually. But which one? Bookmakers seem to be as perplexed as the fans, with odds making it clear that pretty much everyone thinks this could go either way. And while we agree, we do think that Senegal – thanks to their goal-scoring potential – are a touch more likely to break through. Our scoreline prediction, therefore, is 2-1 to Senegal, but this is likely to be a close one.
Our recommended tip: Sadio Mané scores first
There’s a lot of players which you can look at to potentially draw first blood in what will no doubt be the most heated of clashes. However, for our money, Sadio Mané seems most likely out of anyone to take the honor of scoring first in this final. And considering you can get excellent 9/2 odds at Betfair on this result, we’d say that’s a solid value option. You can also get the same odds for ‘No Goalscorer’ across several bookmakers, such as Skybet and Ladbrokes, if you think neither will be able to break through in the closest of close contests.
We’ve mentioned how Algeria’s win over Senegal earlier in the Africa Cup of Nations is among their best reasons to be positive when heading into this match. Further head-to-head clashes also reaffirm this fact. Algeria have a huge winning percentage over Senegal and, more importantly, they haven’t lost a game in this fixture since way back in 2008. The closest Senegal came was a 2-2 draw in 2017’s tournament. While we still think Senegal have the firepower to get the victory here, there’s no doubt that the psychological edge has to go to Algeria based on past encounters.
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Players to watch: Sadio Mané & Riyad Mahrez
Senegal: Sadio Mané
If we were to sum up our reasoning for predicting a Senegal victory as the most likely outcome here in the fewest words, we would probably simply say ‘Sadio Mané’. He’s the kind of difference maker that teams dream of, and one who thrives in big match environments just like this. Not only that, but he’s failed to score since the first play-off match. That means he’ll be itching to show the world what he is capable of once again.
Algeria: Riyad Mahrez
Could we really have picked anyone else? Not only has Riyad Mahrez scored three goals this tournament – putting him neck-and-neck with Sadio Mané in the quest for the golden boot – but one of those goals was that astonishing last moment game stealer against Nigeria in what was quite literally the last shot of the night. When you have someone who can change everything in the blink of an eye, they have to be your one to watch.