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Burkina Faso vs Senegal Preview

The African Cup of Nations has been a pleasure to watch, and the excitement is slowly coming to a close, but not before we crown a champion. 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place are now on the line and one of Senegal or Burkina Faso are in the perfect opposition to take home a medal. Will Senegal get the chance to finally take home the title of best on the continent? Or will Burkina Faso do the unthinkable, as they have shown time and time again this AFCON finals?

Africa Cup of Nations: Semi-final
Wednesday 2 February
Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium
21:00

To Win (90 minutes)
Burkina Faso 42/10
Draw 33/20
Senegal 17/20

To progress
Burkina Faso 19/10
Senegal 7/20

Burkina Faso

It’s been a run to remember for Burkina Faso. Making the semi-final might have been an optimistic view for all involved with The Stallions, but I do not believe that was the hope. Now the reality is that they face a nation that is hungrier than ever to lift that trophy, and the challenge ahead of them is one Burkina Faso will not shy away from.

Burkina Faso did not get the result they wanted, but it was a performance to hold their heads high over when they lost 2-1 to hosts Cameroon in their first fixture. A well-worked attack and an excellent cross from Isaa Kabore into the six-yard box set up Burkina Faso for all three points in their second group stage match against Cape Verde. Captain Bertrand Traore’s return to action (missed Cape Verde match) in the deciding group-stage encounter against Ethiopia gave a huge boost to the team earning a well-deserved point to progress. A round of 16 performances saw The Stallions securing a dramatic victory over Gabon, winning 7-6 at the Limbe Stadium in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out to continue their journey as one of the underdogs.

The West Africans put together a performance of disciplined and immense quality last time out to defeat Tunisia 1-0. They showed what they’re known for this campaign, grit! Forward Dango Ouattara was the player to net on the stroke of half time, but also put his team at risk when he received a red card a couple minutes before the full-time whistle.

Team news is not glim, but there are two hits that Burkina Faso will have to endure. Ouattara misses out after the aforementioned red card, and striker Djibril Oattara will miss out after picking up an injury last time out having to be subbed off in the 72nd minute.

Burkina Faso head into this encounter with Senegal unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 fixtures in all competitions (five wins and five draws). The goal is to keep the momentum going and do one better than their 2013 campaign when they were knocked out by Nigeria.

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Senegal

Senegal have finally hit their stride at just the right time. Fans can, and I am sure the team and coaching staff feel confident in their chances of reaching the AFCON final, let alone achieving the success of that elusive continental glory. After being outdone by the narrowest of margins during the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, losing 1-0 to Algeria in the final, Senegal find themselves at the cusp of proving why they are FIFA’s highest-ranked African nation (20th).

The Lions of Teranga began their campaign in Group B with a 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe courtesy of a late Sadio Mane penalty, but they were underwhelming to say the least carrying the tag of favourites to win the tournament. Coach Aliou Cisse’s men then went on to play goalless draws with Guinea and Malawi but were still able to top their respective group with a plus one goal difference and five points. Senegal’s round of 16 tie saw them make very heavy weather of a tie in which they were one man up for 35 minutes, and two men up for another 35. Mane and Bamba Dieng’s goals gave the nation a 2-0 victory.

Finally, it was as if the Lions finally awoke with a dominant display to dispatch of Equatorial Guinea by three goals to one. Famara Diedhiou put Senegal ahead just before the half-hour mark, and after going level in the 57th minute, Cheikhou Kouyate came off the bench to restore the lead followed by Ismaila Sarr making sure of the result in the 79th in what was his first appearance at the tournament.

The defence of the Lions has been their biggest strength to date, conceding once in five fixtures. With no injury doubts or suspensions to report, we can expect and unchanged back five of Bouna Sarr, Kalidou Koulibaly, Abdou Diallo, Saliou Ciss and Eduoard Mendy.

Senegal will feel confident heading into this tie, but not take the opposition likely. They have managed to defeat Burkina Faso in each of the last four meetings between the sides since 2006, with their most recent three encounters ending in draws.

Prediction: Senegal (17/20)

Burkina Faso are the outsiders of the two semi-final fixtures and knowing their place will be key in finding victory, but breaking down Senegal, even through a counterattack will be a difficult ask. Despite being star-studded, Senegal a strong defensively, and dominate the midfield coupled with fast and tactical attackers. There’s no other play, and I feel this job gets done inside 90 minutes.

Written by Joshua Gaillard