CAN 2021: Senegal finally favorite?

CAN 2021 : le Sénégal enfin favori ?  Après un lent démarrage, le Sénégal joue enfin comme un ténor et rentre dans le costume de favori taillé pour la Coupe d'Afrique des nations (CAN), avant sa demi-finale contre le Burkina Faso, mercredi à Yaoundé.  Favoris ? "Ne vous laissez pas avoir, hein !" lance le défenseur Abdou Diallo dans le vestiaire après la victoire dimanche contre la Guinée Équatoriale (3-1) en quarts de finale."Il n'y a pas de favori ici, on n'a rien fait encore, on est en demi-finale, on est content aujourd'hui, on profite aujourd'hui, dès demain c'est reparti, on a un jour de moins de récup' qu'eux", prévient le défenseur central du Paris SG dans une séquence largement diffusée sur les réseaux sociaux.  Au début de son discours de vestiaire, Abdou Diallo rappelle le contexte, l'étiquette de favori visible comme sur un tee-shirt de marque italienne avec laquelle voyageaient les "Lions de la Teranga", puis la désillusion après un 1-0 et deux 0-0 en poules."Personne ne nous prend pour un favori parce que soi-disant on joue mal, mais aujourd'hui tout le monde va dire : On a gagné, on est favori", ajoute le défenseur.  Finaliste de la dernière édition, mondialiste en 2018, armé comme jamais avec une star par ligne : Sadio Mané, Idrissa Gueye, Kalidou Koulibaly et Édouard Mendy, le Sénégal a débarqué au Cameroun dans les habits d'un prétendant ambitieux. Mais un premier tour à un seul but marqué, un penalty de la dernière seconde - de Sadio Mané - contre le Zimbabwe, l'étiquette était froissée.  "Les grandes équipes on les critiquera toujours, c'est normal, l'attente est énorme", explique l'ex-star sénégalaise El-Hadji Diouf. "Mais je le répète : la CAN n'est pas une course de vitesse mais une course de fond." Les Lions ont élevé le niveau en 8es face au Cap-Vert (2-0), en finissant certes à 11 contre neuf, puis offert un des meilleurs matches du tournoi contre la séduisante Guinée Équatoriale.  Le Sénégal "est une équipe qui monte en puissance, on a un potentiel énorme si on joue notre jeu", insiste El-Hadji Diouf, finaliste malheureux en 2002 contre le Cameroun (0-0, 3 t.a.b. à 2), une finale envisageable en 2022, les "Lions Indomptables" affrontant l'Égypte dans l'autre demie, jeudi.  "On sait qu'on peut mieux faire", admet le capitaine Kalidou Koulibaly. "On sait qu'on est en train de monter en puissance. On sait qu'on peut encore mieux tenir le ballon mais il ne faut pas faire la fine bouche, on est qualifiés pour les demi-finales."  Le Napolitain admet "qu'après le premier et le deuxième match voire les matches de poule, personne ne nous voyait là", mais son équipe était programmée pour le septième match, la finale, pas uniquement les trois premiers."Il n'y a plus de favori aujourd'hui, quand on arrive en demi-finale, il faut seulement gagner", rappelle-t-il.  Le sélectionneur Aliou Cissé aussi tient à refroidir un éventuel excès de confiance. "On ne s'enflamme pas, on sait que tout n'a pas été parfait" contre le "Nzalang" (Éclair) guinéen. "Nous avons fait un début de prépa très difficile, les gens disaient qu'on cherchait des excuses, mais quand dix joueurs ne sont pas là (blessures et Covid-19, NDLR), c'est normal que les débuts soient poussifs", rappelle Aliou Cissé.  "On a gardé la foi, on a toujours cru en nous et travaillé malgré les critiques, aujourd'hui tout le monde est d'accord que le Sénégal est en train monter en puissance, mais l'équilibre est fragile", souligne l'entraîneur. Au moins ses Lions ont la peau tannée depuis mars 2015 qu'il est en place.  "Depuis six ans, on a bourlingué partout sur le continent, joué toutes sortes de footballs, certains d'entre nous jouent leur quatrième CAN, moi je l'ai aussi jouée sur le terrain: c'est l'expérience". Et de poursuivre : "Dans les moments difficiles, on est resté serein, on a avancé ensemble.  Sadio Mané d'embrayer : "Nous sommes le Sénégal. On est capable de battre n'importe quelle équipe, on va essayer encore, pour passer en finale".    CAN 2021: Senegal finally favorite?  After a slow start, Senegal is finally playing like a tenor and getting into the costume of favorite cut for the African Cup of Nations (CAN), before its semi-final against Burkina Faso, Wednesday in Yaoundé.  Favorites? "Don't be fooled, huh!" launches defender Abdou Diallo in the locker room after Sunday's victory against Equatorial Guinea (3-1) in the quarter-finals. "There is no favorite here, we haven't done anything yet, we're in the semi-finals, we're happy today, we're enjoying today, tomorrow we're off again, we have one day less recuperation than them" , warns the central defender of Paris SG in a sequence widely broadcast on social networks .  At the start of his locker room speech, Abdou Diallo recalls the context, the favorite label visible as on an Italian brand t-shirt with which the "Teranga Lions" traveled , then the disillusionment after a 1-0 and two 0-0 in hens. "Nobody takes us for a favorite because supposedly we play badly, but today everyone will say: We won, we are favorites" , adds the defender.  Finalist of the last edition, globalist in 2018, armed as ever with a star per line: Sadio Mané , Idrissa Gueye , Kalidou Koulibaly and Édouard Mendy , Senegal landed in Cameroon in the clothes of an ambitious suitor. But a single-goal first round, a last-second penalty – by Sadio Mané – against Zimbabwe , the label was crumpled.  "The big teams will always be criticized, it's normal, the expectation is enormous", explains the former Senegalese star El-Hadji Diouf . "But I repeat: the CAN is not a race of speed but a race of distance." The Lions raised the level in the 8th round against Cape Verde ( 2-0), certainly finishing 11 against nine, then offered one of the best matches of the tournament against the attractive Equatorial Guinea.  Senegal "is a team that is growing in strength, we have enormous potential if we play our game" , insists El-Hadji Diouf, unfortunate finalist in 2002 against Cameroon (0-0, 3 pens to 2), a possible final in 2022, the "Indomitable Lions" facing Egypt in the other half, Thursday.  "We know we can do better ," admits captain Kalidou Koulibaly. "We know that we are gaining momentum. We know that we can hold the ball even better but we must not be choosy, we have qualified for the semi-finals."  The Neapolitan admits "that after the first and second game or even the group matches, no one saw us there" , but his team was scheduled for the seventh game, the final, not just the first three. "There is no longer a favorite today, when we reach the semi-finals, we just have to win," he recalls.  Coach Aliou Cissé also wants to cool any excess of confidence. "We do not ignite, we know that everything has not been perfect" against the "Nzalang" (Lightning) Guinean. "We made a very difficult start to the preparation, people said that we were looking for excuses, but when ten players are not there (injuries and Covid-19, editor's note), it is normal for the beginnings to be sluggish" , recalls Aliou Cissé.  "We kept the faith, we always believed in ourselves and worked despite the criticism, today everyone agrees that Senegal is gaining momentum, but the balance is fragile" , underlines the coach. At least his Lions have been tanned since March 2015 when he's been in place.  "For six years, we have traveled all over the continent, played all kinds of football, some of us are playing their fourth AFCON, I have also played it on the pitch: that's the experience ". And to continue: “In difficult times, we remained calm, we moved forward together.  Sadio Mané to engage : "We are Senegal. We are capable of beating any team, we will try again, to reach the final" .

CAN 2021: Senegal finally favorite?


After a slow start, Senegal is finally playing like a tenor and getting into the costume of favorite cut for the African Cup of Nations (CAN), before its semi-final against Burkina Faso, Wednesday in Yaoundé.

Favorites? "Don't be fooled, huh!" launches defender Abdou Diallo in the locker room after Sunday's victory against Equatorial Guinea (3-1) in the quarter-finals. "There is no favorite here, we haven't done anything yet, we're in the semi-finals, we're happy today, we're enjoying today, tomorrow we're off again, we have one day less recuperation than them" , warns the central defender of Paris SG in a sequence widely broadcast on social networks .

At the start of his locker room speech, Abdou Diallo recalls the context, the favorite label visible as on an Italian brand t-shirt with which the "Teranga Lions" traveled , then the disillusionment after a 1-0 and two 0-0 in hens. "Nobody takes us for a favorite because supposedly we play badly, but today everyone will say: We won, we are favorites" , adds the defender.

Finalist of the last edition, globalist in 2018, armed as ever with a star per line: Sadio Mané , Idrissa Gueye , Kalidou Koulibaly and Édouard Mendy , Senegal landed in Cameroon in the clothes of an ambitious suitor. But a single-goal first round, a last-second penalty – by Sadio Mané – against Zimbabwe , the label was crumpled.

"The big teams will always be criticized, it's normal, the expectation is enormous", explains the former Senegalese star El-Hadji Diouf . "But I repeat: the CAN is not a race of speed but a race of distance." The Lions raised the level in the 8th round against Cape Verde ( 2-0), certainly finishing 11 against nine, then offered one of the best matches of the tournament against the attractive Equatorial Guinea.

Senegal "is a team that is growing in strength, we have enormous potential if we play our game" , insists El-Hadji Diouf, unfortunate finalist in 2002 against Cameroon (0-0, 3 pens to 2), a possible final in 2022, the "Indomitable Lions" facing Egypt in the other half, Thursday.

"We know we can do better ," admits captain Kalidou Koulibaly. "We know that we are gaining momentum. We know that we can hold the ball even better but we must not be choosy, we have qualified for the semi-finals."

The Neapolitan admits "that after the first and second game or even the group matches, no one saw us there" , but his team was scheduled for the seventh game, the final, not just the first three. "There is no longer a favorite today, when we reach the semi-finals, we just have to win," he recalls.

Coach Aliou Cissé also wants to cool any excess of confidence. "We do not ignite, we know that everything has not been perfect" against the "Nzalang" (Lightning) Guinean. "We made a very difficult start to the preparation, people said that we were looking for excuses, but when ten players are not there (injuries and Covid-19, editor's note), it is normal for the beginnings to be sluggish" , recalls Aliou Cissé.

"We kept the faith, we always believed in ourselves and worked despite the criticism, today everyone agrees that Senegal is gaining momentum, but the balance is fragile" , underlines the coach. At least his Lions have been tanned since March 2015 when he's been in place.

"For six years, we have traveled all over the continent, played all kinds of football, some of us are playing their fourth AFCON, I have also played it on the pitch: that's the experience ". And to continue: “In difficult times, we remained calm, we moved forward together.

Sadio Mané to engage : "We are Senegal. We are capable of beating any team, we will try again, to reach the final" .
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