Looking critically at the way Algeria started the tournament from day one right up to the final match, it will be very difficult for one not to accede to the fact that, winning the AFCON championship at the end of the day was not a fluke or an undeserved win.
BEST TEAM IN AFRICA.
From my own point of view and with the quality of football they have displayed, Algeria at the moment is the best team in Africa. Their attacking prowess is very potent and effective. I addition, they have shown to those who do not care to know, that they cannot also score, but also defend. To say that they have the best defending strategy in the just concluded tournament will not be an understatement. But the performance showcased by the north African team is not entirely new, this is so because they are known to have a reputation for being very technical in all ramifications. The just concluded tournament is no different, the entire African continent saw a solid defense and a solid attack, typical of a major club side in Europe.
CAUGHT BALL WATCHING.
The lone goal that was scored was too fast and a little bit a lucky one, considering that it was deflected away and beyond the waiting hands of the goalkeeper who was off his line. Many football fans and I want to believe fans from Senegal too, have blamed Sane for the loss, it will be uncharitable not to load all the blame on the goalkeeper who was where he was not supposed to be at the material time. On top of that, Gomis should have attempted to go after the sailing ball in other to prevent it from entering into the net. Unfortunately, being the last man, he stayed rooted like a statue, 'caught ball watching'. That was a costly mistake that earned the Algerians one of the quickest goals of the tournament.
It is very difficult for a team not to be unsettled psychologically when an early goal is scored and this effect showed itself on the Lions of Teranga. As for the Algerians, the need to re-strategize became imminent when it was pretty clear that low ball game took over from long passes. The new style of play obviously disrupted Senegal when they started rendering poor passes, poor cohesion and then making the mistake of playing the new strategy the Algerians where playing. If I were the manager of Senegal Cisse, the best strategy to adopt is to play long passes as against what the Algerians where doing. If he had done so, perhaps Senegal would have been singing a different tune today.
SOMETHING FRESH OR A WIN?
Being among the best teams on the continent, the Lions of Teranga dominated the remaining minutes of the first half and created chances that could have upset the goal scored, but the anxious and fidgety West Africans couldn’t convert such opportunities as presented. In as much as the desert foxes disappointed fans by not coming with something new in the second half, at the end of the day, it has apparently paid off since its opponent could not breakthrough their defenses to cancel the lone goal. Can one blame Algeria for lacking freshness during the second half? I think not. The objective is to score a goal and then try to defend it when adding another one goal appears to be difficult.
KNOWING HOW TO DEFEND.
Scoring more than two goals against the Lions of Teranga may not be an easy feat for any team at the tournament and the Algerians who couldn’t go beyond a lone one is no different. It will be uncharitable not to point out the near solid defense of Senegal and in my opinion no team should be bashed for not scoring more and more for a final seal. On the contrary, i think the Algerians should be praised for defending one goal against the roaring Lions of Teranga. Knowing how to score and knowing how to hold down the opponent from scoring is another issue in its entirety.
JUST ONE GOAL.
I can only but blame the Senegalese for not scoring one goal or at least having multiple shots on goal. Like I mention earlier, the Lions of Teranga have had opportunities in front of goal but wasted them when it appears that something good was going to come from it. Mane and his fellow attacking compatriots should have at least converted just one goal from the uncountable passes and corner kicks that came their way. It is surprising if not saddening that all was wasted and nothing was converted.
PRESENCE OF MIND.
It took the Lions of Teranga upwards of a precious quarter of an hour to recover from the rude shock of an earlier goal. From that moment on, they had a dominating ball possession such that the pressure on the Algerians caused an Algerian to handle the ball which the referee initially awarded, only for it to be denied by VAR. But what this means is that, the Algerian defense is in full possession of it faculties in the face of pressure and frenzy. The defender, remembered to hold his hands behind him, which is expected of any defender within the perimeter of the 18 yard box. This is the mark of the team who wants to win I think.
TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, ..
To be fair to Mane, who can be said to be the star of the entire tournament, his team, his country and fans demanded too much from him. Mane was seen busy struggling to conjour up something for his team and country, but to no avail. I can but only praise him a little for an impressive performance despite the pressure of being the captain and star player of a prestigious football club as Liverpool FC. Although it was said, “to whom much is given, much is expected”, I think Mane has given his best for the team, country and represented his club side, Liverpool FC.
5 ON THE SCALE.
On a final note, I will conclude by saying that the teams did very well against each other. Having met during the group stages and at the final, it was quite clear that they were trading on familiar grounds. The match may not have elicited the kind of football, typical of a final, I think the lack of excitation in the flow and drive stemmed from the wariness that one team had for the other. The final was quite tense, too physical and aggressive such that one cannot conclude it to be a first rate match. I think I will rate it 5 on the scale.