Senegal won 4-2 on penalties last night with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane firing home the winner. I was surprised though that Mo Salah didn’t step up earlier in the shootout. Like Mane, he was probably down for the fifth penalty for Egypt. Salah had scored the fifth penalty earlier in the tournament to knock out Ivory Coast.
The argument for holding Mo back is that star players might be able to cope with the pressure a little better going latter when it could be effectively in a sudden death scenario. This is a risky strategy however, as we saw last night.
But how much of a risk?
Going back through the previous African Cup of Nations finals since the competition expanded to 12 teams in 1992, there has been 32 penalty shootouts in the knockout rounds. 13 of these (40%) did not reach the tenth penalty. On first inspection, the odds were in Mo's favour but not greatly.
However, only 6 of these previous shootouts were finals. In these 6 final matches only 1 shootout ended before the 10th spot kick. Ironically, Egypt won 5-4 in 2006 even though Ivory Coast sent Drogba up first! From scanning the data it seems that shoot outs in the final seem to go on longer when compared to earlier rounds.