Senegal coach Aliou Cisse believes the Africa Cup of Nations group stage defeat by Algeria helped fuel their run to the final, where they will meet the same opponents Friday for the title in Cairo.
Algeria beat Senegal 1-0 in their second game of the tournament in Egypt, but Cisse’s side have since won all four matches without conceding a goal, leaving the Teranga Lions on the cusp of a first Cup of Nations crown.
“It was a misstep for us. Algeria are a great team and we respect them. We’re in the final now and determined to win to put it simply,” Cisse told reporters Thursday.
“The defeat in the group allowed us to remotivate ourselves and become stronger. A final is a different match. We are very calm and concentrated with great players and a strong collective unit.”
“We slipped up in the first game against Algeria and we understood that and drew lessons from it,” added midfielder Krepin Diatta, who played in the Under-20 Cup of Nations final two years ago.
Cisse, 43, was captain of the Senegal side that reached the 2002 final in Bamako, missing the decisive penalty in a shootout loss to Cameroon.
“Seventeen years without Senegal getting to the final is a long time. I think there have been several editions since then. There was lots of disappointment and tears after 2017 (quarter-final exit),” said the former Paris Saint-Germain and Birmingham City midfielder.
“Here we are with a talented generation. We want more than just to get to the final. We hope to put in a great display tomorrow and win this Cup of Nations.
“Finals are often tight matches, with lots of emotion and stress. The finer points will decide it. There are two great teams, I hope it will be a great party and the football will live up to expectations.”
Senegal must do without defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, who is suspended for the final after two yellow cards in the knockout phase.
His absence is a huge blow to a backline breached just once in this competition, with Salif Sane, injured during Senegal’s opening match against Tanzania, likely to start alongside Cheikhou Kouyate.
“Kalidou is an exceptional boy and one of the best defenders in the world. I’m sad he won’t be with us. He’s a great patriot and he’s someone with great character. It’s a loss for us but we have 23 players, including those who can cover for Koulibaly’s absence. We’ll also be playing for him tomorrow,” said Cisse.
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