By Jacob Ajom
The stage is set for the first semi final clash between two west African giants, the Teranga Lions of Senegal and the Stallions of Burkina Faso. The epic clash comes up today at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium, Yaounde. The match kicks off 8 pm Nigerian time.
The two countries are no strangers to the big stage neither are they new to each other. Senegal who are pre tournament favourites were finalists in the last edition in Egypt 2019 where they lost to Algeria by a solitary goal. Before then, they had also reached the final in Mali 2002 when Cameroon won the trophy through penalties.
Here in Cameroon, the Tarenga Lions, led by Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, have struggled to gain momentum. They qualified for the Round of 16 with a single goal and fought to the end of their wits before seeing off Cape Verde in the Round of 16, before finding their stride against Equatorial Guinea whom they defeated 3-1 in the quarter finals. The Senegalese who have been tipped to win this year’s competition are therefore a perfect example of a team that is gaining momentum with the flow of the competition.
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Coach Aliou Cisse admitted, “we have had a very difficult start to our preparations but we worked well afterwards but today we are gaining momentum. We must not get carried away because against Burkina Faso, it;s going to be a big battle.”
The Stallions who emerged as runners up behind host team, Cameroon in thier group are appearing in their third semi final in the last five editions and were finalists in 2013 when the Super Eagles defeated them 1-0 in South Africa.
The Stallions defied all permutations and handed Tunisia a stunning 1-0 defeat in the quarter final, even as they ended the match with ten men. They have many reasons to feel this is their year. Indeed the additional motivation is the unsavoury political situation at home, in which the fans at home have defied the curfew imposed by the junta to celebrate their victories in Cameroon.
Kamou Malo, coach of Burkina Faso explained the feeling in their camp just after their victory against Tunisia, “I would like to take this opportunity to pay homage to the people who despite everything, stay strong.”
Burkina Faso and Senegal have met twelve times across all competitions. The Teranga Lions have won three times against Burkina Faso’s two wins.
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