Senegal have healed past wounds, says Daf

Reuters, Friday 20 Jan 2012

Senegal will seek to “heal the wounds” of losing their only African Nations Cup final appearance 10 years ago by going one better in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, fullback Omar Daf said

Fans of Senegal cheer in a car at a street in Bata January 19, 2012. The African Nations Cup is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon from Jan. 21 to Feb. 12. (Reuters)

The latest Senegalese squad is expected to match, or even better, the feats of a golden generation that narrowly lost the 2002 final on post-match penalties to Cameroon and later the same year went onto reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

“It was very hard to come so close and fail in 2002. We had a big team with a lot of self belief, all pulling in the same direction to help us get to the final,” he reflected as Senegal prepared to play Zambia in Bata on the opening day of the tournament on Saturday.

“It was also hard to lose the final on penalties but in hindsight Cameroon’s players had a bit more experience,” he added in an interview with the Senegalese press agency APS. Cameroon won the 2002 final 3-2 on penalties after a goalless draw in Bamako, Mali.

“Our failure in the final gave us impetus to do well at the World Cup.”

Senegal’s side, with players like El Hadji Diouf, Khalilou Fadiga and Henri Camara, caught the imagination of the continent with their achievements. Now Daf hopes the new generation can be similarly golden.

“We have managed to the heal the wounds,” he says of the disappointing return for Senegal since 2002, including missing out on the 2010 finals in Angola.

“We had a very good qualifying campaign. Now we need to ensure that we have no regrets.”

Fullback Daf is expected to provide defensive cover at the tournament, having lost a regular place in the line-up.

But the Dakar-born defender has long proven his longevity.

He spent 10 years at Sochaux and is now in his third season with Stade Brest, having helped them win promotion to Ligue 1 in France two seasons ago.

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