NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 15 – Former Senegal star El Hadji Diouf believes Kenya will cause problems at the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt, insisting the Harambee Stars are a hard nut to crack and have improved in a huge way over time.
Stars are pooled with Diouf’s Senegal in Group C of the June 21-July 19 showpiece alongside Algeria and Tanzania in a group Diouf has described will be tough.
“I think they will be a very difficult side for Senegal and in the group. I watched them play against Ghana in their last qualification match and they impressed me. They play good football, they fight and they run so much. I think it is a quality side,” Diouf told Capital Sport in a chat in Cairo.
“There are good players in that team then of course there is the captain (Victor Wanyama) who has done so well with Tottenham. Not a pushover side any day,” added the striker who also featured for Liverpool in the English Premier League.
Diouf has likened the Kenyan team to his own side’s squad of the 2002 World Cup where the Lions of Teranga reached the knockout phases, only seeing their journey cut short with a sudden death goal against Turkey in the quarter finals.
“We were in a tough group… Denmark, World Champions France and Uruguay. On paper, no one would have given us a chance. We were the underdogs. But we had some good team spirit and we worked hard to qualify,” the forward reminisced.
He believes pressure will be on his Senegalese side and Algeria, the perceived big boys in the group.
“Everyone expects Senegal and Algeria to get off the groups and also, many people expect Senegal to be among the teams to fight for the title. So, pressure will always be on them. Kenya and Tanzania have nothing to lose and it is always dangerous playing against such a team. It will not be easy,” Diouf noted.
He expects either Kenya or Tanzania to make it to the knockout rounds especially with the expanded tournament making room for four best third placed teams progressing.
“I believe one of them will be in the round of 16. If they don’t make it in the top two in the group, I am sure either Kenya or Tanzania will be one of the best number three teams. I fancy Kenya,” further stated the forward.
Diouf was in Cairo for the tournament’s draw and from then traveled to Tanzania for the CAF Under-17 African Cup of Nations.