Senegal coach Aliou Cisse is aware of the threat posed by the Uganda Cranes as the two sides head for the round of 16 on Friday night in Cairo.
The coach, whose team has been touted as one of the favorites to win the title, reached this round as second best in a group that had Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania. The two East Africans have been eliminated.
When asked about his team’s strength compared to Uganda’s, Cisse downplayed the favorites’ tag but believes his team is good enough to challenge for the ultimate prize.
“We are now in the round of 16 and we are hoping to reach the quarter-final,” Cisse began, “Uganda is a strong team and they have great capabilities. They changed coaches but they have the same style. They are a committed team and playing against them needs good preparation.”
Having played two East African nations –Kenya and Tanzania- in the group stages, Cisse is expected to have, at least a faint idea, how to approach the Cranes.
However, he is cautious to reveal his tactics and adds that the two play a different style from Uganda’s.
“We played against Tanzania and Kenya, but Uganda has its own style and the challenge is different. I said before, in AFCON every game has its special characteristics. They are a very well organized team. In AFCON there are no easy games. I always say we are here to win whoever our opponent is.”
Despite their high ranking in football and a galaxy of stars playing in major European leagues, the Lions of Teranga have never won the title.
Their best shot was a silver medal in 2002, a year when Cisse, now the coach, was a player and captain. He believes that the nation is now ready to go for the big prize after building a team for about five or so years.
“We worked for two years for this moment. During the past four or five years, we have a new team that is trying to achieve success and we are not far from that. We can win the title this time. Senegal is a great team but achieving success is not a decision,” he adds.