Senegal have not yet shown their true colors since the start of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Cameroon 2021 and they have the platform to prove their status as the number team in Africa when they date Equatorial Guinea tonight from 21:00hrs CAT.
While Senegal were expected to be there as one of the pre-tournament favorites, Equatorial Guinea defied many odds to reach the quarters as one of this AFCON Black Horses.
At a prematch press conference on Saturday, Equatorial Guinea coach Juan Micha said they were ready — “both physically and mentally”.
“We respect Senegal, who are runners up of the previous edition. It will be a final for us, and we will play our game to put on a good match and go as far as possible. We won against Senegal in 2012 AFCON but we are not the favorites this time.”
His player, Santiago Eneme said reaching the quarterfinals was thanks to their seriousness and all the work done since the start of the tournament.
“We are a young team that dreams of going as far as possible. Our ambition is to win and put on a good show.”
Against many odds, Micha’s side has been ideal during this AFCON edition. After a narrow defeat to Côte d’Ivoire, they stunned holders Algeria and Sierra Leone to reach the Round of 16, where they surprised Mali to go through.
Equatorial Guinea, participating for the third time their history, hope to do as in 2015 or better, when the Nzalang Nacional reached the semifinals — a difficult but not impossible mission for a team that has always demonstrated its qualities to always go further.
Senegal remain timid with two wins, two draws and three goals scored without any conceded so far but the Teranga Lions remain favorites for the February 6 final.
They will be looking to the heroics of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, defender Kalidou Koulibaly and superstar Sadio Mané to go past the Equatorial Guinea hurdle and cut one more step towards the gold they are chasing for the first time.
“We are going to approach this match as we have done before, with humility and confidence,” said Senegal coach Aliou Cissé. “We will play against a good team from Equatorial Guinea that we know well.
“We have great respect for this team which has good players. We have been gaining momentum since the start of the competition and we will play our best football to get to the semi-finals. Sadio Mané is doing better. We hope to get him back for tomorrow’s game.”
His player Bouna Sarr said they prepared for this tournament in the best possible conditions and all the matches are important for them.
“There has been progress with each match, and it is now up to us to work as strong as ever.”
This will be just the second encounter at the AFCON between the two sides with Equatorial Guinea winning the previous such game, in the group stages in 2012 (2-1).
Senegal have progressed from three of their last five quarter-final matches at the AFCON while they’re looking to reach the semi-finals in consecutive tournaments for the first time.
Equatorial Guinea have lost just one of their last five AFCON games (W2 D2), keeping four clean sheets and conceding just once – more shutouts than they managed in their previous nine matches in the competition combined (3).
Since the start of the 2017 AFCON, Senegal have won more games (9) and kept more clean sheets (12) than any other team.
Sadio Mané has scored 44% of Senegal’s goals (7/16 excluding own goals) at the AFCON since 2017, while none of his teammates have scored more than once in this time.