Senegal begin their quest for a first-ever African Cup of Nations title when they take on Zimbabwe at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam this afternoon. Kick-off is at 3pm (Zimbabwean time) The Lions of Teranga are one of the tournament favourites, boasting a squad chock-full of players from Europe and they are expected to finish top of Group B which also consiste of Guinea and Malawi.
Aliou Cisse guided the West African giants to the AFCON 2019 final, where they lost 1-0 to Algeria, finishing runners-up for the second time in their history.
Cisse’s side will be determined to go one better in Cameroon, but the head coach stressed the importance of learning from their past mistakes.
“Senegal can win this AFCON, but there are also many teams capable of winning this edition,” Cisse was quoted as saying on CAFOnline. “It is going to be very difficult, and we must continue to work and look at all the mistakes made in the past and start the next edition in the best possible way.”
The Warriors qualified for the African showpiece as runners-up to the defending champions in their group, but have since struggled for results, recording just one win in 2021.
The majority of coach Norman Mapeza’s squad ply their trade on the continent, with just eight of them playing abroad and only Lyon striker Tino Kadewere featuring in one of Europe’s top five leagues.
But team manager, Wellington Mpandare, insists they are driven to rewrite the history books by qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time.
“Everyone here wants to make history,” Mpandare was quoted as saying by The Herald. “Remember our team has been said to be the weakest-ever Warriors team at AFCON following the withdrawal of some of the players.
“It’s not nice to be told you are the weakest. But this has motivated the guys we have in the camp to work even harder. “They want to show the nation that they are capable.
So going past the group stage will be good for them, if they can achieve it.” The two nations have only met three times before, with the Senegalese emerging victorious on each occasion, most recently winning 2-1 in the COSAFA Cup on July 13, 2021.