After over three weeks at the Africa Cup of Nations and an impressive road to the semi-finals, Burkina Faso and Senegal go head to head for a place in the final at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on Wednesday.
Both sides, who have beaten finalists in 2013 and 2019 respectively, will head into the game desperate to get one over the other as they seek to conquer the continent for the first time ever.
Burkina Faso will be delighted with their performance at the Africa Cup of Nations as they have turned in a performance of the highest quality and made it to the last four against the odds.
After suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of host nation Cameroon in the tournament’s curtain-raiser on January 9, Kamau Malo’s men bounced back to winning ways four days later when they saw off Cape Verde 1-0 courtesy of Hassane Bande’s solitary strike.
Burkina Faso rounded off the group stages with a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia on January 17 to pick up four points from three games in Group A and finish as runners-up, three points adrift of group winners Cameroon and level on points with Cape Verde, who also progressed as one of the four best third-placed sides.
The Stallions were then forced into penalties by a resilient Gabon side in their round-of-16 clash two Sundays ago, when Adama Guira’s own goal canceled out Bertrand Traore’s first-half strike to restore parity before they claimed a 7-6 victory in a nervy shootout.
The West African’s turned in a performance of the highest quality last time out as they stunned Tunisia 1-0 in last Saturday’s quarter-finals encounter when Dango Ouattara netted on the stroke of half time to send the Eagles of Carthage packing.
Burkina Faso head into Wednesday’s game unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 games across all competitions — picking up five wins and five draws — with their group-stage defeat at the hands of the Indomitable Lions being the only exception.
While they will now look to keep the juggernaut rolling, the goal will be to make it to the final and surpass their 2013 run, where they made it to the final before suffering a gruesome 1-0 defeat at the hands of three-time champions Nigeria.
However, next up is a tricky tie against an opposing side who they have failed to defeat in each of the last four meetings between the sides since 2006, with their most recent three encounters ending in draws.
Senegal, on the other hand, have hit their stride at the business end of the tournament and will now feel confident in their chances of going all the way this year and ending their wait for continental glory.
Aliou Cissé’s men had to dig deep in their Afcon opener on January 10 as they needed a 97th-minute penalty which was converted with aplomb by Sadio Mané to see off a dogged Zimbabwe side.
Their struggles in the game were signs of things to come as they failed to win their subsequent group games, playing out goalless draws against Guinea and Malawi respectively, but with five points from three games, the Lions of Teranga top Group B and secured smooth passage to the knockout stages.
However, having scored just once in the group stages, Senegal put two past Cape Verde in their round-of-16 clash on January 25 courtesy of second-half goals from Mané and Marseille youngster Bamba Dieng.
This was followed by a dominant display against Equatorial Guinea in last Sunday’s quarter-finals as they secured a comprehensive 3-1 victory when the sides locked horns at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium.
In that encounter, Famara Diedhiou put Cisse’s men ahead just before the half-hour mark, and when Jannick Buyla restored parity in the 57th minute, Cheikhou Kouyaté came off the bench to restore Senegal’s lead before fellow substitute Ismaila Sarr made sure of the result in the 79th minute in what was his first appearance at the tournament.
The two-time finalist, who lost to Algeria in Egypt three years ago, head into Wednesday’s game unbeaten in 11 straight games, claiming eight wins and three draws since a Cosafa Cup defeat at the hands of South Africa back last July.
Burkina Faso will take to the pitch without the services of Lorient youngster Ouattara, who scored the winner against Tunisia last time out before picking up a straight red eight minutes away from time.
On the injury front, Djibril Ouattara made his first appearance at the tournament in the aforementioned game, but after coming off with a 72nd-minute injury, the 22-year-old forward’s participation is in doubt.
Following his side’s solid defensive display against the Eagles of Carthage, Malo could name a backline, meaning we could see Steeve Yago, Edmond Tapsoba, Soumaila Ouattara and Issa Kabore shielding Herve Koffi between the sticks for the third game running.
Meanwhile, after scoring just once in the group stages, Senegal have found their touch in the knockout stages, netting five times in two games, and we expect Cissé to name an unchanged attacking unit of Boulaye Dia, Diedhiou and Mané.
The Liverpool man, who has netted eight times in the Premier League this season, has two goals and one assist under his belt at the tournament and will certainly play a big role for the Lions of Teranga.
In defence, Senegal have been imperious so far, conceding just once in five games and we expect to see an unchanged back four of Bouna Sarr, Kalidou Koulibaly, Abdou Diallo and Saliou Ciss shielding Chelsea man Edouard Mendy in goals.
Kayouté and Sarr both came off the bench to find the target and send Equatorial Guinea packing and we should see the duo come into the starting lineup on Wednesday.
Burkina Faso possible starting lineup:
Koffi, Kaboré, Tapsoba, Ouattara, Yago, Nikiema, Guira, Sangare; Bandé, Ouattara, Traoré
Senegal possible starting lineup:
E Mendy, Sarr, Koulibaly, A Diallo, Ciss, Kayouté, N Mendy, I Gueye; Diedhiou, Dia, Mané