Senegal have suffered a costly blow as Sadio Mane will be suspended for their Africa Cup of Nations opener against Tanzania.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has suspended Mane for his two yellow cards during Senegal’s qualification campaign.
The Liverpool forward received his first booking in a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea on November 17 in Malabo. He later picked up another yellow in Senegal’s 2-0 win against Madagascar on March 23.
Now, the Teranga Lions must find a way to cope without an in-form Mane leading the charge in their AFCON opening fixture with Tanzania.
Although head coach Aliou Cisse remained bullish over Senegal’s prospects where they hope to improve on their fifth-place finish in 2017.
“His absence should not in any way bother us,” said Cisse, according to BBC.
“Certainly the presence of Sadio is beneficial but without him we remain strong. CAF has decided, so we will not linger [on the subject].”
Cisse added: “Certainly, with Sadio we would be very good, but even without him we will be very good.”
Senegal will take on Nigeria in their final pre-tournament friendly in Dakar on Sunday before heading off to Egypt for the AFCON.
After their encounter with Tanzania on June 23, Senegal will welcome back Mane to the fold for their two final Group C matches against Algeria four days later and Kenya on July 1.
The Champions League winner has an old score to settle in the AFCON after missing the decisive penalty that saw eventual winners Cameroon eliminate Senegal on penalties in the 2017 quarter-finals.
“We all know that Sadio will have a good Nations Cup,” said Cisse via Ahram Online. “The players around him have to raise their level. That’s how we’ll get there.”
Mane has scored 16 goals in 60 matches for Senegal since debuting in May 2012.