In a commanding performance, Senegal, the reigning champions, secured their spot in the last 16 of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations by defeating Cameroon 3-1 in a crucial Group C encounter, showcasing their determination to defend their title.
The opening goal came in the 16th minute when Ismaila Sarr capitalised on a defensive lapse from Cameroon. A well-executed header from Pape Matar Sarr led to a precise finish by Ismaila Sarr into the bottom right-hand corner. The early lead set the tone for Senegal’s dominance.
As the match progressed, Senegal continued to assert control, and in the 71st minute, they doubled their lead. Habib Diallo demonstrated excellent positioning, sliding in between defenders Enzo Tchato and Jean-Charles Castelletto to convert Ismaila Sarr’s low cross from six yards out.
Cameroon faced a considerable challenge without their top scorer, Vincent Aboubakar, and striker, Karl Toko Ekambi, starting on the bench. The absence of offensive threats was evident for most of the match.
However, a late surge from Cameroon injected some suspense into the contest. In the 83rd minute, Jean-Charles Castelletto powered in a header from Olivier Ntcham’s cross after a short corner, reducing the deficit to 2-1. The goal energised Cameroon, prompting them to press forward in pursuit of an equalizer.
In the dying moments, Cameroon had a golden opportunity to level the score when George-Kevin Nkoudou missed a free header. The miss proved costly, as Senegal swiftly capitalised on the counterattack.
Sadio Mane, the experienced forward, secured Senegal’s victory in stoppage time. Mane calmly guided Idrissa Gana Gueye’s pass into the bottom left-hand corner from just inside the area, sealing the win and ensuring Senegal’s progression to the knockout stage.
With this victory, Senegal tops Group C and can secure the group’s leadership by avoiding defeat in their final group match against Guinea. Guinea’s 1-0 win over The Gambia further complicates Cameroon’s path to the knockout stages, leaving them with a challenging task to progress.
Senegal’s successful campaign aligns with their bid to become the first team to retain the Africa Cup of Nations trophy since Egypt in 2010. Aliou Cisse, who guided the Teranga Lions to their first Afcon title two years ago, continues to steer the team with determination and prowess.