AFCON 2019: No Mane, no problem, says Senegal coach ahead of Tanzania clash

Powerful Senegal will launch their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Tanzania in Cairo Sunday without Liverpool star Sadio Mane , but coach Aliou Cisse is unconcerned .

The 27 – year – old forward is serving a one -match ban after being yellow- carded twice during qualifying for the biennial showcase of African football .

“ His absence should not in any way bother us , ” stressed Cisse , who was part of the Senegal team that finished runners – up to Cameroon in the 2002 Cup of Nations, their best showing.

“ Certainly the presence of Sadio is beneficial , but without him , we remain strong , ” added the former Paris Saint -Germain midfielder ahead of the Group C clash .

Mane also missed the opening match of the 2015 tournament in Equatorial Guinea against Ghana owing to a calf injury.
Here, AFP Sport previews the three Sunday fixtures on the third day of the first Cup of Nations to feature 24 teams , up from 16 in Gabon two years ago.

Senegal v Tanzania
Senegal is ranked 22 in the world and Tanzania 131, making this the biggest mismatch on paper of the 36 first – round matches in Egypt .

Even without talisman Mane , it would be a shock if the Teranga Lions failed to secure maximum points against the second lowest – ranked side in the competition, above only Burundi .

Many pundits believed Senegal would go all the way two years ago, but they fell to eventual champions Cameroon in the quarter – finals after Mane missed a penalty in a shootout .

The huge ranking gap between the countries does not concern Tanzania coach Emmanuel Amunike , a Cup of Nations winner as a player with Nigeria 25 years ago.
“ Do not be surprised if you see some of these so – called big teams packing their bags early and heading home , ” he said .

Algeria v Kenya
Regular underachievers Algeria boast a prolific scorer in Baghdad Bounedjah, who has seamlessly transferred great club form to the national team , for the other Group C match .

After scoring 39 goals in 21 starts for Qatari club Al Sadd last season , he netted in both of the Desert Foxes ’ warm – up matches, a draw with Burundi and victory over Mali .
The spotlight will also be on forwarding Andy Delort , a late call – up after Haris Belkebla was dropped from the squad for baring his backside online .

Delort is the latest of many footballers born in France of Algerian descent to switch allegiance after representing their country of birth at age – limit levels .
Kenya is back at the Cup of Nations after a 15 – year absence and captain and midfielder Victor Wanyama from Tottenham Hotspur is the stand – out player among the Harambee Stars .

Morocco v Namibia
The contrast between coaches Herve Renard of Morocco and Ricardo Mannetti of Namibia in Cairo could not be greater ahead of the first Group D match .

France- born Renard , already a Cup of Nations- winning coach with Zambia and the Ivory Coast , is under massive pressure to complete a hat- trick in his second appearance with Morocco .
Although regarded as an African football powerhouse , Morocco has lifted the Cup of Nations only once, and that was 43 years ago when there were only eight finalists .
Morocco hammered Namibia 5 – 1 in a previous meeting and while the margin might be less this time , an Atlas Lions win seems likely in a group including the Ivory Coast and South Africa .

Mannetti is under no pressure having got the Brave Warriors to the tournament against the odds and he has warned rivals that “ even small dogs have teeth ” .
( AFP )

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