The Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt was perfectly set up for Mohamed Salah to lead his team to the title on home territory and crown his career but Algeria's Riyad Mahrez and Senegal's Sadio Mane have stolen the show.
The two players have been instrumental in leading their sides to Friday's final at the Cairo International stadium where Senegal will attempt to win their maiden title and Algeria the first since 1990.
"I do not like highlighting players. We need to put a little less focus on Mahrez if we want to make this a big tournament for us," said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi at the start of the finals.
AFCON 2019: Best goals so far - Salah v Mahrez and more
Mahrez has responded with three goals, two of them gems.
He produced a delightful touch in controlling a pass before lashing home a left-foot shot in the 3-0 quarter-final win over Guinea and scored the winner in the semi-final against Nigeria with a stunning free kick deep into stoppage time.
Mane has netted three goals although he has also missed two penalties, prompting him to abdicate responsibility for spot- kicks, but there has been no denying his importance for Senegal.
Highlights: Algeria beat Nigeria with dramatic Mahrez strike
Neither player had an especially happy relationship with the tournament before this year.
Mahrez scored one goal and played in all four games as Algeria reached the quarter-finals in 2015 where they lost to eventual champions Ivory Coast.
Two years later, Algeria were knocked out in the group stage without winning a game although Mahrez scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe.
Mane, also taking part for the third time, played two matches in 2015 when his side went out in the first round.
Two years ago in Gabon, he scored two goals but could not prevent a quarter-final elimination by Cameroon, missing the decisive penalty in the shootout.
The hopes of Senegal rest on the shoulders of Sadio Mané
Image credit: Getty Images
Although both won major club titles this season - Mahrez the Premier League with Manchester City and Mane the Champions League with Liverpool - they agreed that winning the AFCON for their countries would be something special.
"To be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations is something unbelievable," Mahrez said.
I think we have been very good in this tournament. We scored 12 goals and conceded two, that is the source of our confidence.
Mane, meanwhile, said beforehand that he would happily swap his Champions League medal for an AFCON one.
"To win for my country, which has never won an AFCON, would be magnificent," he said. "I am even ready to trade a Champions League against an AFCON. The return to Dakar would be extraordinary. It would be my craziest dream.”
Senegal have never previously won the Africa Cup of Nations
The 43-year-old French-born midfielder was on the books of Paris St Germain, Olympique Marseille, Manchester City and Southampton during a playing career from 1995 and 2009 and captained Algeria at the 2004 Cup of Nations finals.
Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi speaks to reporters during a press conference
Image credit: Eurosport
His managerial career began at club level in Qatar and he took charge of their national team for a year but was fired after Qatar finished bottom of the group at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.
Algeria gave him a four-year contract last July.
Road to the final
June 23 (Cairo) beat Kenya 2-0 (Baghdad Bounedjah pen, Riyad Mahrez)
June 27 (Cairo) beat Senegal 1-0 (Youcef Belaili)
July 1 (Cairo) beat Tanzania 3-0 (Adam Ounas 2, Islam Slimani)
Highlights: Algeria brush aside Tanzania
July 7 (Cairo) beat Guinea 3-0 (Belaili, Mahrez, Ounas)
July 11 (Suez) beat Ivory Coast 4-3 on penalties after 1-1 draw (Sofiane Feghouli)
Algeria beat Ivory Coast on penalties
July 14 (Cairo) beat Nigeria 2-1 (William Troost Ekong own goal, Mahrez)
Expected final line-up: Rais Mbolhi, Ramy Bensebaini, Aissa Mandi, Djamel Benlartmi, Mehdi Zeffane, Adlene Guedioura, Ismail Bennacer, Riyad Mahrez, Sofiane Feghouli, Youcef Belaili, Baghdad Bounedjah.
Belaili fires Algeria to win over Senegal
1957 – Egypt (Sudan)
1959 – Egypt (Egypt)
1962 – Ethiopia (Ethiopia)
1963 – Ghana (Ghana)
1965 – Ghana (Tunisia)
1968 – Congo-Kinshasa (Ethiopia)
1970 – Sudan (Sudan)
1972 – Congo (Cameroon)
1974 – Zaire (Egypt)
1976 – Morocco (Ethiopia)
1978 – Ghana (Ghana)
1980 – Nigeria (Nigeria)
1982 – Ghana (Libya)
1984 – Cameroon (Ivory Coast)
1986 – Egypt (Egypt)
1988 – Cameroon (Morocco)
1990 – Algeria (Algeria)
1992 – Ivory Coast (Senegal)
1994 – Nigeria (Tunisia)
1996 – South Africa (South Africa)
1998 – Egypt (Burkina Faso)
2000 – Cameroon (Ghana and Nigeria co-hosts)
2002 – Cameroon (Mali)
2004 – Tunisia (Tunisia)
2006 – Egypt (Egypt)
2008 – Egypt (Ghana)
2010 – Egypt (Angola)
2012 – Zambia (Equatorial Guinea and Gabon co-hosts)
2013 – Nigeria (South Africa)
2015 – Ivory Coast (Equatorial Guinea)
2017 - Cameroon (Gabon)
NB: Congo-Kinshasa and Zaire now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.