Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane, and the reigning champions of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Senegal, might not play in the 2022 FIFA World Cup as they fell 1-0 to the pharaohs of Egypt on Friday, March 25, 2022.
On the said date, Senegal visited Egypt in Cairo for the first time since the country defeated Egypt 4-2 on penalties to win their first AFCON title in the country’s football history.
Hence, the meeting was seen as an opportunity for Mohamed Salah and his teammates to revenge the heartbreaking AFCON loss that left Salah in tears 6 weeks ago.
As expected, the whole country was behind the host but a capacity of 75,000 spectators at the Cairo International Stadium did not stop Senegal from dominating the FIFA World Cup play-off.
Amid intimidating Egyptian supporters, Sadio Mane led a Senegalese attack that kept Egypt’s defense on their toes for 90 minutes. At the end of the game, the visitors recorded 56 percent of the ball possession while the hosts made do with 44 percent.
However, Senegal did not do too much to prevent Egypt from having a fair share of the ball which led the hosts to make 314 passes as against Senegal’s 383 passes.
In the attacking department, Mohamed Salah’s led Egyptian attack also kept the Senegalese defense as busy as they could. Their effort created 9 shots, three of which were on target. While the visitors created 10 shots, three of which were on target.
The match-changing moment
From all indications, Senegal did not look like a team that visited Cairo for sightseeing. They came to beat or draw with the pharaohs of Egypt to stand a better chance of making it to Qatar.
But their plans ahead of the game suffered a big blow in the 4th minute when Senegal’s Saliou Ciss scored an own goal that gifted Egypt an unprecedented advantage.
Ciss was a victim of an attack initiated by Mohamed Salah. The Liverpool hitman beat the offside trap to get on the end of a ball over the top of the defense from Amr El Sulaya. At that point, Senegal’s defense was left helpless as Salah hit the ball but his attempt bounced on the bar.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the rebound landed on a helpless Ciss’ knee and went straight to Senegal’s net. The own goal made all the difference after 90 minutes of football.
The incident made Senegal fight harder in an attempt to get the equalizer. Sadio Mane could have given his team the needed equalizer towards the end of the first half but he ended up playing the ball wide.
Sadio Mane has only one chance to make it to Qatar
As it stands, Sadio Mane is left with one opportunity to help Senegal qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. That opportunity will parent itself when Egypt visit Dakar for the second leg of the play-off on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
All Sadio Mane and his teammates have to do at this point is to beat Egypt at least 2-0 to qualify for the World Cup. But that is expected to be an uphill task for the African champions.
Hence, the possibility of Mane and his teammates losing out of the forthcoming football tournament in Qatar is very high as it might take a miracle for the Senegalese players to overturn the result of the first leg.