Cairo. The Teranga Lions may have started the competition as top ranks and favourites, but now it’s time for reality not presumptions. Senegal faces Tunisia with a place in the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations final at stake.
After qualifying from Group C in second place behind Algeria, Senegal had an identical 1-0 victory twice over Uganda then Benin to reach the final four. Now their next opponent will be the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia today at the Cairo based 30 June stadium.
For Coach Aliou Cissé and his players, the fact of being in the final four is in itself a good performance.
“I want to congratulate my players for the heroic match as well as the qualification that is deserved for us. Since 2006, Senegal has not reached the semifinals of the Afcon, which proves that we are working to become the best”, Cisse said after his side overcame Benin to qualify for the penultimate stage.
After 13 years of waiting, the Senegalese will play their fifth semifinal after those of 1965, 1990 2002 (when they reached their only final before losing to Cameroon on penalties) and 2006, also in Egypt.
Presented as a potential winner of this 32nd Afcon edition, the teammates of Sadio Mané, who notably missed two penalties despite scoring three goals in the tournament, have assumed their status rallying to this advanced stage of the competition.
With a solid defence, with that of Algeria they are the only teams to concede just once in five games, the troops of Cissé can legitimately aspire to win the African crown that has eluded Senegal for ages.
Even the generations of Jules Bocande, Khalilou Fadiga and El Hadji Diouf couldn’t win it before.
“Since 2006, Senegal has not reached the semifinals of the Afcon, which proves that we are working to become the best,” said Aliou Cissé
The Teranga Lions are the highest-ranked African nation, at 22nd in the world, and Cisse is bidding to lead his country a step further than the team he captained in an agonising penalty shootout defeat to Cameroon at the 2002 final.
“We’re close to the goal, in the sense of us being in the semi-finals. Having got to this stage here we have hope. But we know the hardest is yet to come,” said Cisse, who missed the decisive spot-kick in that loss to Cameroon. (AFP)