Africa Cup of Nations: Will Mane guide Senegal past high-flying Tunisians?
FOOTBALL By SAMMY KITULA in LIBREVILLE, Gabon | January 15th 2017
As a prolific footballer, Senegal’s Sadio Mane has defined the strong and silent type.
The Liverpool striker has been unemotional, relentless and unreservedly bullish in front of goal. His has been a calm, but steady rise at Anfield, home of English Premier League’s side, Liverpool.
The 24-year-old Mane has made 19 starts, scored nine goals and has four assists.
And such is the kind of pedigree Senegal will be banking on, when they meet North Africans, Tunisia, from 10pm tonight, at the Stade de Franceville.
So, will the Lions of Teranga roar again when faced with the opposition of the Cartage Eagles, who lost once in 10 matches last year?
Guided by Senegalese legend Aliou Cisse, Senegal seem to be enjoying a rebirth of sorts. Cisse captained the Senegal team, which reached the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup and shocked holders France in their opening group match.
His team’s talent is apparent. In their ranks, they have Mane, Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham and Mame Biram Diouf, who plays for Stoke City. He surely would have wished for a similar show, now as a coach. But Cisse was cagey about expectations of his galaxy of stars.
“We cannot be seen as favourites. This is Africa Cup of Nations and there are big teams. No team had it easy when qualifying for this tournament,” the dread-locked tactician, who has reggae legend Bob Marley as his model, said at a press conference yesterday.
Cisse will certainly be praying for a repeat of their 2002 World Cup performance. In their world debut, Senegal stunned then cup holders France, which has remained as one of the most memorable upsets in World Cup history.
But that is history. Much has changed since then and Tunisia will be glad to remind the Lions of Teranga as much. The Carthage Eagles will want to function as a unit.
“We do not have the individual quality that Senegal and other big teams in Africa have. We will function as a team. Collective unit,” Tunisia coach, Henryk Kasperczak, said.
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