Senegal v Tanzania: Cisse eyes historic AFCON title

Sadio Mane will be missing for Senegal as they start their bid for a first AFCON title against Tanzania on Sunday.

Senegal boss Aliou Cisse   -  Getty Images

Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse believes his side is "genuine challengers" as it looks to win a first Africa Cup of Nations.

Cisse's side kicks off its campaign on Sunday against Tanzania and are expected to improve on the performance of two years ago, when it was dumped out in the quarterfinals by Cameroon.

While stopping short of describing Senegal as favourite to lift the trophy, Cisse does think it will be in contention in the latter stages of the tournament.

"Favourites are the teams who have won," he said. "Senegal have never won the Africa Cup of Nations; Egypt have seven times. We know our strengths and we are genuine challengers.

"Our recent results show that Senegal is making progress, but the statistics don't lead to victories. France were not top of the FIFA rankings and they were world champions.

"To get to the semifinals would be normal for this team. Each Senegal outing is a step forward. That needs to be backed up during this Cup of Nations or it's going to be difficult."

Senegal will be without influential Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, who is suspended after receiving two yellow cards in qualifying.

Cisse, who was a player when Senegal reached the final of the tournament in 2002, is unconcerned that the Champions League winner will not be at his disposal, though.

"His absence should not in any way bother us," he added. "Certainly, the presence of Sadio is beneficial, but without him we remain strong."

Tanzania is 109 places below Senegal in FIFA's world rankings, but boss Emmanuel Amunike believes his side is capable of causing a shock.

"According to me, Senegal are the best team in Africa, but we still have our own good players who can produce the demanded results," he said.

"When you go into such a tournament, you must get a positive result to be assured of doing well and that is what we will target against Senegal.

"Do not be surprised if you see some of these so-called big teams packing their bags early and heading home."

Liverpool star Sadio Mane will miss the opening contest due to a suspension.   -  Getty Images

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Senegal - Moussa Konate

In Mane's absence, the Amiens forward will be expected to deliver the goals to see off Tanzania. Konate only scored seven times for his club side last season, but his record of 10 goals in 17 appearances for his country suggests he is at home on the international stage.

Tanzania - Mbwana Samatta

The Genk forward has scored more goals for his country than anyone else in the squad and Amunike will know the 26-year-old needs to fire if it is to cause an upset.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the first encounter between Senegal and Tanzania in the Africa Cup of Nations.
- Senegal is making its 15th appearance at the AFCON, a record for a team that has never won the trophy. The closest it came to winning the tournament was in 2002, losing the final on penalties against Cameroon.
- Senegal has lost only one of its ast six group games at the AFCON (W3 D2), a 2-0 defeat against Algeria in January 2015.
- Tanzania is making its second appearance at the AFCON, 39 years after its first in 1980, the longest gap between two appearances in the history of the tournament. 
- Senegal manager Aliou Cisse was the captain of the Terenga Lions when they reached their only AFCON final to date, in 2002.