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He is expected around the corner. He knows it. « This year all 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 himself admits it: he » court[t] behind this victory ”.
He and his Teranga Lions did not go far during the 2019 edition of the CAN, in Egypt, beaten only in the final by Algeria. For its entry into the 2022 edition of the competition, Monday January 10 in Bafoussam (Cameroon), Senegal narrowly beat Zimbabwe (1-0). The team hopes to do better for their second group match, Friday 14th, against Guinea.
« We are better than in 2019 », assures Aliou Cissé, not hesitating to highlight the statistics of his team in 2021: seven games won, three draws, zero defeats, 21 goals scored, only six conceded … « For six years, we have obtained results that no coach has had here in Senegal », he prides himself.
« We chose him because we felt that as a Senegalese, he was going to 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 in bringing the Senegalese team back up among the most prominent on the African continent. « He is part of this new generation of breeders, like Djamel Belmadi in Algeria, who have both a European vision thanks to their international career and a local anchoring which allows a human management of the group », analyzes journalist Mansour Loum, specialist in African football.
A native of Ziguinchor, in Casamance (south), Aliou Cissé has a rich career as a defender and midfielder behind him, which has seen him pass through Lille, Paris, Birmingham and Portsmouth. But most of all, he captained the national team in 2002, when Senegal defeated then reigning world champions France in the World Cup opener 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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