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He is expected at the turn. He knows it. « This year all the Senegalese want to win, that’s good, me too », launches Aliou Cissé. Face framed by long dreadlocks, square glasses on his nose, this 45-year-old Senegalese, at the head of his country’s national football team since 2015, is in his third African Cup of Nations (CAN) “as a coach”. And the former international player admits it himself: he » court[t] behind this victory.
He and his Teranga Lions did not go far during the 2019 edition of the CAN, in Egypt, only beaten in the final by Algeria. For its entry into the 2022 edition of the competition, Monday January 10 in Bafoussam (Cameroon), Senegal narrowly beat (1-0) Zimbabwe. The team hopes to do better for its second pool match, Friday 14, against Guinea.
“We are better than in 2019”, assures Aliou Cissé, not hesitating to highlight his team’s statistics in 2021: seven games won, three draws, zero losses, 21 goals scored, only six conceded… « For six years, we have obtained results that no coach has had here in Senegal », he boasts.
“We chose him because we felt that as a Senegalese, he would be able to restore confidence and a group dynamic”, explains Mayacine Mar, national technical director, for whom the Lions are now on a good trajectory.
A rich playing career
In fact, the coach has succeeded in a few years to raise the Senegalese team among those most prominent on the African continent. “He is part of this new generation of coaches, like Djamel Belmadi in Algeria, who have both a European vision thanks to their international career and a local anchorage which allows human management of the group”, analyzes the journalist Mansour Loum, specialist in African football.
A native of Ziguinchor, in Casamance (south), Aliou Cissé has behind him a rich career as a defender and midfielder which has seen him pass through Lille, Paris, Birmingham and Portsmouth. But he was above all captain of the national team in 2002, when Senegal beat France, then defending world champions, in the opening match of the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. “As captain, I recovered the flag of Senegal from the hand of the President of the Republic, it is a very important tradition”, he remembers, still moved.
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