By Thembinkosi Mangena
A mouth-watering Africa Cup of Nations –AFCON semi-final clash pitting West African rivals, Senegal and Burkina Faso is on the cards this Wednesday as the tournament reaches the business end.
AFCON glory has been elusive for both Senegal and Burkina Faso and 2022 could be the year for at least one of the two nations.
What is certain is that one of the two countries will have yet another chance to bid for continental title after they were paired in the semi-finals of the prestigious tournament.
Senegal lost the 2002 final on penalties to Cameroon before losing by a solitary goal to Algeria in the 2019 final and hope to put heartbreak of the past behind them.
They however have to first overcome their next huddle in the semi-finals, which comes in the form of their regional rivals, Burkina Faso, who also hope to make amends to their 2013 final heartache after they lost to Nigeria.
Despite a rather unimpressive start to the tournament, the two teams seem to have regained their form, with Senegal finally hitting their stride at the business end of the tournament after impressive scorelines in the knock-out stages of the tournament.
After topping Group B with only a single goal, Senegal went on to beat Cape Verde 2-nil in the round of 16 before dispatching Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
The return of Ismaila Sarr from injury will be a major boost for the Lions of Terenga, as he proved by netting the winner against Equatorial Guinea after coming on as a substitute in what was his first appearance at the tournament.
Burkina Faso on the other hand, will be delighted to have the under-dog tag, but will be no pushovers having sent Tunisia packing in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
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 hosts, Cameroon being the only exception.
The head to head record however slightly favours Senegal, who have won three of their 11 previous meetings with Burkina Faso in all competitions.
The Stallions have won twice, with seven of the games ending in a draw.
As the semi-final match beckons, Africa is assured of witnessing a team that has never won the tournament, bidding for the coveted title once more.