30 January 2019

Africa: U-20 - Twice Unlucky Senegal Digs for Charm in Niger

Named as the successor to Joseph Koto who guided Senegal to the final of the last two editions; in 2015 and 2017, new coach Youssouph Dabo has taken over a job most Senegalese have tagged with success in recent times.

'Les Lionceaux' as they are nicknamed left a huge impression at the last two editions missing out on the title at home in 2015, and two years later in Zambia, which raises expectation s for Dabo and his charges.

Since the introduction of the eight-team final tournament in 1991, it was only in 2015 and 2017 that the Senegalese went past the group stages. Their earlier outings in 1993 (Mauritius) and 1995 (Nigeria) saw them crash out at the first hurdle.

After a difficult test against Egypt at the First Round, which saw 'Les Lionceaux' edge the Junior Pharaohs on penalties, the latter eased past Congo (2-2, 4-1) to qualify for Niger in grand style.

In the build-up to the final tournament, Senegal emerged champions of the regional WAFU U-20 tournament in Lome, Togo last December, conceding no goal in their romp to the title.

"These results don't mean anything," said Dabo, whose side registered 2-0 wins over group phase opponents, Burkina Faso and Mali during the Lome tourney. Ghana completes the pool in Group B. Host Niger, Burundi, Nigeria and South Africa make up Group A.

"It's true, we met these opponents (Burkina Faso and Mali) and we got the upper hand but the tournament in Niger is another competition with more challenges.

"It's not a mere formality, our first aim is to qualify to semis," he opined.

"We are in a pretty strong group," Dabo added whilst counting on the experience of Ousseynou Cavin Diagne and Souleymane Aw, both members of the Class of 2017 to bring their knowledge to bear on their games.

"The experience of a big competition is very important."

Diagne, who plays for Le Mans (France), says he is proud to be back and participate a second time.

"This is a great honour," said the youngster with an ambition to be part of a team that will win a first ever continental title for Senegal.

"Being in the same group with teams like Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali, make is a tough group," he added, whilst noting that some of his colleagues will be hoping to grab the attention of scouts of top clubs with their display during the tournament.

"Our senior colleagues like Tony Sylva and Amdy Faye who played for the U-20 AFCON in 1993 and 1995 respectively went on to play at the very highest level and we want to follow in their footsteps," Diagne concluded.

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