Former Premier League striker who played for Liverpool, El Hadji Diouf says that all Senegal needs is “belief” to win the nation’s first ever Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title.
Diouf spent most of his playing career in England in the top flight, mostly playing in the Premier League and also had 70 caps for his country Senegal scoring 24 goals.
Senegal are the highest-ranked African team in world football at 20th and is captained by superstar central defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
The Lions of Teranga also have the African Footballer of the Year, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane amongst their ranks. They are a top side who lost out to Algeria in the 2019 Nations Cup final.
Senegal have already secured their place in the AFCON finals with 2 games to go as they prepare to face Congo Republic and Eswatini to wrap up Group I of the AFCON qualifiers.
Although the Senegalese have secured their spot, they will want to win both of their remaining games to show a sign of intent and build some fear amongst their continental rivals.
Eswatini have already been eliminated so that game might be one where both teams will give chances to test out some of their lesser-known talents.
El Hadji Diouf said, “To be champions, it is about organisation, hard work and belief.
“I think what the Senegalese team needs today to be the champions of Africa is to believe. You can have all the talent you want around the world but if you don’t believe in yourself, if you don’t say ‘I’m coming to win this AFCON in Cameroon’, you are never going to do it.
“You have to believe in yourself, work hard and in players like Sadio Mane, we [Senegal] have the key to success.”
Diouf helped Senegal reach the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and had some words of encouragement for the current Senegalese squad.
“They are the best – they have to know they are the best and they have to believe they are the best,” added the two-time CAF African Footballer of the Year.
“The only thing I have to say to them is to think about just one thing – the thing that I missed out on in my career – to be the first Senegal team to win [the] AFCON.”
Senegal are the only nation to have won all of their qualifying games so far and are just 1 of 4 teams to have booked their place at the AFCON finals to be held in Cameroon.
Algeria, Mali and Tunisia are the other 3 teams that have already secured qualification for Africa’s premier football competition. Hosts Cameroon get automatic qualification, of course, leaving 19 spots free for qualification.
Can Senegal create history and win their first ever AFCON title? This is probably their best chance of doing so.