Aliou Cisse reckons Senegal’s group-stage defeat to fellow finalists Algeria ultimately fueled their run to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final in Cairo.
Senegal enter tonight’s final against Algeria hoping to win a maiden AFCON title in Egypt. They’ve had a solid run in the competition, with five wins in six games and just one goal conceded.
But the one game Cisse’s men failed to win came in their second Group C fixture at the hands of Algeria on June 27.
Another concern for Senegal is the fact they haven’t beaten Algeria since a World Cup qualifier in 2008. Since then, the Desert Warriors have won four of their last five meetings.
“It was a misstep for us. Algeria are a great team and we respect them. We’re in the final now and determined to win to put it simply,” said head coach Cisse, according to BusinessLive.
“The defeat in the group allowed us to remotivate ourselves and become stronger. A final is a different match.”
For Cisse, in particular, redemption will likely be on his mind after missing the decisive penalty in a 3-2 shoot-out defeat to Cameroon in the final 17 years ago in Bamako, Mali.
It was the only time in Senegal’s history that they had reached the AFCON final prior to this year’s competition.
“Seventeen years without Senegal getting to the final is a long time. There was lots of disappointment and tears after 2017 [quarter-final exit],” said Cisse, who was also the captain of the national team back in 2002.
“Here we are with a talented generation. We want more than just to get to the final. We hope to put in a great display and win this Cup of Nations.
“Finals are often tight matches, with lots of emotion and stress. The finer points will decide it. There are two great teams, I hope it will be a great party and the football will live up to expectations.”
Although the Lions of Teranga have already suffered a big blow in the loss of star centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly for the final. The Napoli player will serve a suspension after receiving two yellow cards.
The Senegal and Algeria 2019 AFCON final will begin tonight at 21:00 (CET).