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Preview: Equatorial Guinea look to once again upset the odds versus Senegal

Pre-tournament favorites Senegal will attempt to book their spot in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations semifinals, but have a difficult opponent in Equatorial Guinea to over come on Sunday. The Senegalese team has been far from inspiring in Cameroon but continue to get the results they need, taking advantage of two red cards to defeat Cape Verde in their Round of 16. A fierce defense is the key component of Equatorial Guinea’s excellent run to the final eight and the Nzalang Nacional will count on their tenacity to overcome a more talented Senegalese team.

It is difficult to tell if Senegal are close to the form experts expected them to show after the victory over Cape Verde because the Teranga Lions were playing with two more players. However, the team’s failure to show much going forward for long stretches will not quiet a growing group of critics in the West African country, who feel that manager Aliou Cissé has consistently made incorrect decisions regarding player selection and tactics. There should not be any major lineup changes in the Senegalese team and all members are available following a full group of negative Covid-19 tests.

Following a nasty head injury against Cape Verde, superstar Sadio Mané is cleared for action on Sunday in what will be a massive relief to Senegalese supporters. The only potential lineup change may be the insertion of Cheikhou Kouyaté for talented young Marseille midfielder Pape Gueye, but whoever is chosen to play with expected starters Idrissa Gana Gueye and Nampalys Mendy will be closely watched as Cissé is expected to go with his 4-3-3 formation.

Equatorial Guinea are surprising in Cameroon, but the country’s footballing project has been in development for nearly a decade. Manager Juan Micha knows his team very well and the team chemistry has been crucial to their results at the 2021 AFCON, which includes ending Algeria’s African national team record unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in the group stage. The Nzalang Nacional are ready and embracing the underdog role, meaning their goal is to disrupt the Senegalese attack and attempt to sneak a goal on the break or off set pieces where they have found success.

The team’s recruitment of Spanish-based players with Equatoguinean descent is paying off with results on the pitch. One of those key players from Spanish football is Ivan Salvador Édu, an attacker who debuted as a 19-year-old for the Nzalang Nacional and has since then been an important player. In a profile linked below from Spanish media, Édu’s record of drawing a similar level of fouls to Lionel Messi is referenced and the player stated that the physical treatment he’s received in Spain has helped prepare him for the rigors of African football. The CF Fuenlabrada player will be Equatorial Guinea’s greatest threat among a rather weak attack.

Key Matchup: Saliou Ciss and Bouna Sarr (SEN) vs. Basilio Ndong and Carlos Akapo (EQG)

Senegal love to exploit the wings with attack-minded full backs Ciss and Sarr, but Equatorial Guinea consider the position a strength within their squad. Basilio Ndong and La Liga player Akapo will look to limit Senegal’s runs forward while offering their own attacking threat. If the Equatoguinean full backs bring their best than the upset is certainly achievable for the Nzalang Nacional.

Prediction: Senegal 1-0 Equatorial Guinea

Further Reading

Senegal v Equatorial Guinea – Towards the semis (CAF Online)
Match Facts – Senegal v Equatorial Guinea (CAF Online)

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