CAIRO, Egypt, Jun 30 – Coach Aliou Cisse believes Senegal will back up their status as the continent’s top-ranked side after a stuttering start to their bid for a first Africa Cup of Nations title.
Senegal began their campaign in Egypt with an easy 2-0 win over Tanzania but were far from their best in a 1-0 loss to Group C rivals Algeria.
A draw against Kenya in their final match in Cairo would send the Teranga Lions through to the last 16 where they would face the runners-up from Egypt’s group, in which all four teams are in still contention.
“I’m not the type to call everything into question in four days, I’m someone who is very balanced. There are things which haven’t worked but that’s no reason to start a revolution in the space of four days,” Cisse told reporters Sunday.
“We’ve been number one in Africa for three years and we went to the 2018 World Cup. It’s our first defeat in four years on the continental stage. I don’t think a team that lacked mental strength would have achieved such a run.”
Cisse, the captain of the side that lost the 2002 final to Cameroon on penalties, snapped back at comments from Kenya coach Sebastien Migne suggesting Senegal had a tradition of buckling under pressure when the stakes are high.
“I think my counterparts have a tendency to speak about us. Take care of themselves, take care of their own teams. What does he know about the Senegalese mentality? What does he know about our people? How can he say we don’t have the mental strength?” Cisse countered.
He also slammed the performance of Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe in the wake of the Algeria defeat, in which Sadio Mane had a strong penalty appeal dismissed.
“I don’t want to come back to the refereeing which I found, today I will say it, really catastrophic and unacceptable,” said Cisse. “There are things I don’t want to say about the refereeing because I would be suspended, but there comes a point when you have to protect the integrity of our players.”