Qatar 2022: Mané qualified, Salah out

Another continental champion was very close to staying out of the World Cup. Italy’s elimination had been a serious blow, but Senegal fought back and managed not to suffer the same fate. After losing the first leg in Cairo 1-0, they beat Egypt 1-0 in Diamniadio and won 3-1 on penalties. On a historic day for the country, they managed to enter the World Cup for the third time with the best generation in its history.

The local came out with everything, to wear the rival. With impetus and the push of his people he showed his entry cards and in the first one he had he equalized the series. Four minutes into the game, PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye took a free kick and hit a cross to the far post. The Egyptian defender Ahmed Fattoh cleared it short and Boulaye Dia came with everything to define. It was a dirty shot that Hamdi Fathi ended up deflecting against his own goal.

The series was even but the rhythm of Sadio Mané’s team was immediately cut off. The meeting became a concert of infractions, simulations and delays that made the game impossible for the next 55 minutes. Until the middle of the second half, the little net time that was played and how much the referee allowed that fact bordered on the absurd.

But starting at 20 in the second half, there was a little more football. Mohamed Salah’s team, the driving force behind the delaying actions so that time passes, had a good period with the arrival of Ahmed Zizo, who entered the match well. A few minutes after his entry, the Liverpool man put a ball on his head and generated the clearest of his team in the game.

Everything else was from Senegal, who tried, unclearly, throughout the second half. He had an unbeatable chance at the feet of Ismaila Sarr. Mané gave him a barbaric assist, the Watford striker waited for the right moment to bite and not get ahead and went against the goalkeeper. But, he wanted to adjust it too much against the second post and the ball went away.

The extension was also from the local team. He generated situations to win it, although he was careful not to suffer from a counterattack, since in the African Qualifiers the away goal is still counted and, consequently, an Egyptian goal would have demanded two more from the Senegalese. Pape Cissé had the clearest advantage in extra time with a very good header that was blocked by Mohamed El-Shenawy, figure of the match.

Everything was resolved, as it had happened with the same protagonists in the final of the African Cup of Nations, with shots from the penalty spot. The decisive series was amazing: the first four shots were missed and only one of them saved by a goalkeeper.

But when the story was minimally normalized, the two great figures of Senegal appeared in all their splendor. First, Edouard Mendy, the Chelsea goalkeeper, chosen as the best in the world last year, covered Mostafa Mohamed’s shot and then Mané, the greatest idol in the country’s history, converted his penalty and put his team in the world Cup.

For Senegal it was another historic day: months after winning an African Cup title for the first time, they have achieved their third World Cup qualification. He participated with great success in South Korea-Japan 2002, where he reached the quarterfinals and was left out due to a number of yellow cards, in a unique event in the history of the World Cups, in Russia 2018. Now he is going to Qatar with a squad of a hierarchy that it never had before.

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