Senegal secured a historic victory in a thrilling finale at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers, coming from behind to defeat Morocco 2-1 and claim their first-ever TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title.
Morocco took an early lead in the 14th minute through captain Abdelhamid Ait Boudlal’s well-executed header, which they held onto until the 79th minute. Senegal’s Serigne Falou Diouf equalized from a penalty awarded by VAR, leveling the score and setting the stage for a dramatic turnaround.
In the 86th minute, Mamadou Sawane rose above the entire defense to head home the winning goal, completing Senegal’s hard-fought comeback and sealing their victory in the tournament.
This triumph marks Senegal’s third consecutive continental title within four months. Their team of locally based players previously won the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) title in February at the same venue, and they also emerged as champions in the U20 AFCON held in Egypt in March.
The Senegalese senior national team had kickstarted this run of success by clinching the AFCON 2021 crown last February and later securing an AFCON Beach Soccer title later in the year.
Both Senegal and Morocco were appearing in their first-ever U17 AFCON final, adding an element of novelty to the match. It was Morocco who struck first, with Captain Ait Boudlal finding the back of the net from an Abdel Hamid Maali corner.
The goal provided some relief for Said Chiba’s team, as just moments before, Senegal’s skipper Amara Diouf had come close to scoring from a free-kick that narrowly missed the target.
The match intensified as both sides fought for possession, although clear-cut scoring opportunities became scarce.
Senegal started the second half strongly, with Mamadou Sadio narrowly missing the target with a shot just 45 seconds into the half. On the other end, Morocco had a chance when Maali struck a shot from the edge of the box, but it went wide.
Senegal’s turnaround came in the 76th minute when Moroccan captain Ait Boudlal was penalized for a handball in the box. After consulting the pitch-side monitor, the referee awarded Senegal a penalty, which Serigne confidently converted.
The goal revitalized the Senegalese team, and they piled on the pressure in the final 10 minutes of the game. Just four minutes later, substitute Sawane stormed into the six-yard box to head home the winning goal from a corner.
The goal deflated the Moroccan side, leaving even senior national team coach Walid Regragui, who was in attendance, dismayed and anguished in the VIP area.
Senegal managed to hold on during the remaining minutes, including six minutes of added time, to secure their first-ever U17 AFCON title.