- The two teams are playing the final for the first time ever
- Senegal are unbeaten and have conceded only once
- Morocco have lost once
Senegal and Morocco will clash in the final of the U17 Africa Cup of Nations at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers, each seeking their first ever crown.
Both sides progressed to the final after wading through their semi-final fixtures on penalties, Morocco beating Mali 6-5 while Senegal overcame Burkina Faso 5-4.
Senegal’s head coach Serigne Saliou Dia says they are inspired by the success of other Senegalese national teams, with their senior sides having won the AFCON in 2021 and recently Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) which was held in Algeria in January, while the country also won the AFCON U20 title in Egypt in February.
“They offer us inspiration and we also want to try and emulate them. We have prepared well and we know it will not be an easy game. Everyone is psyched and ready. We want to make history,” said the tactician.
Inspiration from Morocco’s World Cup run
Meanwhile, Morocco’s Said Chiba says they draw their inspiration from the country’s performance at the last World Cup where they became the first ever African country to reach the final.
“We know Senegal well and they know us too and we know this is a tough match. Moroccan people have been supporting us a lot and also want to make them proud like during the World Cup. We are under no pressure and we want to go in and perform well,” the coach noted.
The two teams faced off in a training match in Morocco before the tournament started, with Morocco winning 3-2. The two coaches know each other well and the players too, and this is expected to be an epic battle.
“They are a very good team as they have shown so far in the tournament. They play good football, are physically present and it will not be easy. But we are ready for them,” said Morocco’s Chiba.
Senegal’s Dia says he is elated to have put the team into the final, and says he understands such situations well, having given the country their first ever continental title at the 2015 Africa Games.
Moment of pride for Senegal
“It is a moment of pride for us to be in the final. Now we want to write one more piece of history and ensure we get this trophy for our country,” Dia stated during the pre-match press conference.
Among the players to watch during the final will be Senegal skipper Amara Diouf.
The forward has been a sensational revelation for the team, and has scored five goals so far, breaking Victor Osimhen’s tournament record of four goals set in 2015.
Diouf’s leadership is not only centred upfront where he leads the attack line, but also how he carries the entire team and motivates them in matches.
For Morocco, their captain Abdelhamid Ait Boudlal has been another crucial aspect in the team. He has been rock-solid at the back and his side has not conceded in the three matches he has started.