There has been much talk about the golden generation that reached the quarter finals of the 2002 World Cup. The page has now turned. How good is the current squad?
We placed a lot of hope in the 2002 generation – they got the whole country dreaming. It’s a shame this great generation that deserved to win something didn’t manage it. They got to the final against Cameroon in 2002. They deserved to win, but there you go, there’s a winner and a loser in every final. We want to try to continue the good work that was carried out by the 2002 generation, and why not go all the way and win a title. That’s what will make the difference.
Senegal have some fine individuals. Demba Ba has been exceptional for Newcastle this season.
Demba is an outstanding attacker who is managing to show his quality in every performance. We are proud of him, of what he is doing in England. He is winning games for his club. I hope he carries his club form in to the Nations Cup with him. We’re very happy to have him with us.
Moussa Sow was top scorer in France last season. Can the two play together?
We are lucky to have several quality forwards. We have Moussa, Demba, Papisse Cisse, Mamadou Niang – they’re all top level strikers. When you join up with the national team you have to put all of these qualities together in such a way to benefit the team. That’s what I hope will happen with all my heart. I hope every single player will perform.
You played with Sow when he was at Rennes and against him now that he’s at Lille. What are his main qualities?
He’s strong in the challenges, he has pace, and he has good positional sense, all of which makes him an efficient player. He’ll be a great striker soon. He has to keep on going. I’m happy for him and I hope this year Africa will find out all about Moussa Sow.
It could be hard for the opposing strikers against Mangane and Souleymane Diawara. That must be the hardest centre back pairing in Africa…
Yes, Souleymane and I form a nice duo. Now we have to make sure we are at our best level. Especially me. I have to make sure I am in good physical shape for the Nations Cup.
Give your stature and your reputation for being physical, do you think you and Diawara intimidate opponents?
Let’s just say that the attackers might have sore ears when they hear the names of the players they are up against. They might have heard about us already, people might have told them we are physically impressive. It’s up to us to show them that’s the case. We only conceded two goals in qualifying and we have to keep that record up.
Is there a Senegal young player who may come of age at the competition?
I’d say a player like Papiss Cisse. He’s a forward who could make a name for himself. Today we look out for players that score goals and that’s what he does. I hope he’ll score a few so that we can go a long way in the competition.
In the past Senegal seem to have been hampered by problems off the pitch caused by some strong personalities. Is there a good atmosphere in the group today?
Yes. I think that’s what Senegal was lacking in the past. Solidarity. A group that’s really together. I think this has been the strength of the current squad in the last two years, through the qualifying campaign. We need to continue enjoying playing together. We’re not necessarily the best friends in the world, but we like being together, we’re good partners, and some strong bonds have formed. We are all fighting for the same goal of defending the colours of our country in the best way possible.
Who is the joker in the group? Who lightens the mood in the dressing room?
We have some real personalities. The goalkeeper who plays back home at Linguere (Khadim Ndiaye) makes us laugh a lot. I like people like him. But we get on well because we know there’s a time for laughing and a time for working. The older players like myself are there to show the youngsters what they have to do. There are always moments after training or after matches when you have free time and we all enjoy it together.
What do you do to relax with your teammates?
Sometimes we meet up in the bedrooms. We play games, we chat. We have fun together, so whenever there is a Senegal get-together we are always happy to meet up.