In the aftermath of Senegal’s dramatic Africa Cup of Nations victory on Sunday night, it was easy to think back to previous international tournaments.
You thought of previous Africa Cup of Nations finals that have gone to penalties — 2015, 2012 and 2006 and, most pertinently, 2002, when current Senegal manager Aliou Cisse missed the decisive spot kick.
You thought of recent winners whom Senegal have joined in lifting their long-overdue first international trophy: Chile in 2015 and Portugal in 2016. Like this Senegalese side, they didn’t win in classic finals. Those arguably weren’t quite the greatest iterations of their national teams. But they nevertheless deserved to finally taste glory after such a sustained run of underachievement.
But tactically, you thought of the Italy side that won Euro 2020 last year because there were familiar patterns to their play. Senegal’s front three were joined by a left-back pushing forward aggressively to become the outside-left and a right-sided central midfielder pushing forward to become an inside-right, just like Italy (as Antonio Conte’s assistant Antonio Gagliardi explained in such detail to The Athletic).
For Leonardo Spinazzola, read Saliou Ciss, who attacked Egypt’s makeshift right-back Emam Ashour with tremendous speed. For Lorenzo Insigne, read Sadio Mane as an inside-left. Last summer, Ciro Immobile played the centre-forward role filled here by Famara Diedhiou.