Sadio Mane has broken his silence on Senegal's AFCON exit reflecting on the team's performance and the emotional aftermath of the defeat.
Sadio Mane has broken his silence after Senegal were knocked out of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
The 31-year-old was visibly distraught as he left the Charles Konan Banny de Yamoussoukro Stadium pitch a stark contrast to his usually composed demeanor.
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Mane, who had avoided speaking to English-speaking journalists immediately after the match, opened up to Senegalese media.
"Football is cruel. The God of football was not with us tonight. We gave everything, we did what we had to, even if I think we could have killed the match. But that is not the case, but overall I will say that the best won," the former Liverpool forward expressed, as reported by Wiw Sport.
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Franck Kessié's exceptional performance propelled Ivory Coast past Senegal, breaking a long-standing record set by Ivorian legend Didier Drogba.
The game was a nail-biting spectacle, with Senegal maintaining the lead until the 86th minute when Franck Kessie's penalty breathed new life into Ivory Coast.
The drama peaked during the penalty shootout, a grueling test of nerves and skill that ultimately saw Senegal relinquish their crown, losing 5-4.
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Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse mirrored Mane's sentiment voicing his profound disappointment over the loss.
“We lost on penalties; we kept our lead until the last 5 minutes. I am disappointed after this defeat, especially after our performance and from the first match," Cisse reflected.
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The former Teranga Lions captain recognized the need for change and evolution within the team hinting at a period of reconstruction and strategic shifts in the wake of the tournament's outcome.
"We need to make changes after this defeat; we'll see what happens in the future. There is sorrow, and our players are sad, as are the Senegalese people," he acknowledged.
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The pivotal moment in the shootout came when Senegal’s Moussa Niakhaté's shot hit the woodwork setting the stage for Franck Kessié to once again become the hero of the match.
Kessié's successful penalty sealed the fate of the game propelling his team into the quarterfinals and marking the end of Senegal's journey in the tournament.