Afcon 2021: I wanted to cry when Senegal lost to Algeria in 2019 final – Kouyate

The 32-year-old reveals the scenes that followed the Lions of Teranga’s defeat against the Desert Warriors in the last edition

The 32-year-old reveals the scenes that followed the Lions of Teranga’s defeat against the Desert Warriors in the last edition

Senegal midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate has admitted he was close to shedding tears when the team suffered a 1-0 defeat against Algeria in the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The Lions of Teranga had reached the final of the competition for the second time, but they could not get past the Desert Warriors who won 1-0 courtesy of Baghdad Bounedjah’s strike at Cairo International Stadium.

According to the 32-year-old Kouyate, who currently turns out for Premier League side Crystal Palace and captained Senegal in the 2019 edition, believes they were unlucky in the final because “we deserved more.”

“My summer was so busy at the Africa Cup of Nations; it was special for me, my teammates, and all Senegalese people,” Kouyate said as quoted by the club’s official website ahead of the 2021 edition in Cameroon.

“We were unlucky in the final. We deserved more but we did everything we could to win this for the Senegalese people. We thank God for helping us make it there and you never know, maybe next time. But overall it was a great experience.

“The celebration of reaching the final helped the country all focus on one goal, just one team; everybody was in peace.”

Kouyate has further revealed how his captaincy role helped him to urge on the squad after the final whistle of the final at the 75, 000 sitter capacity.

“Not only are you looking to comfort yourself, but you’re also the one your teammates – experienced and debutants alike – look to. How do you strike the balance of not wanting your teammates’ disappointment to spiral with your own sadness?” Kouyate continued.

“It’s very, very hard because you’re the captain but you want to cry but at the same time you don’t want to cry in front of your teammates, especially the younger ones as you need to show them how to deal with the setback.

“You get them focusing on going further the next time at the Africa Cup of Nations; I say to them: ‘Don’t cry. You’re an unbelievable player, stay strong.’ But it is very hard for me because I want to cry but this is football and you must forget this one and look to the future.”

On always coming up against his teammates, Ghana’s Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp, and Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Zaha, Kouyate said: “It’s always good to see them but when you play against your teammates you want to win for your country.

“However, away from the game, we have a good relationship about it all. Jordan will say: ‘Hey, the Ghana national team is the best,’ and I will say: ‘No, no it’s all about Senegal.’ Then when Bakary [Sako] was here he’d be all about Mali.

“It’s nice to have that, though. We enjoy the competition.”

Kouyate is among the players named in the Senegal squad that will begin their 2021 Afcon campaign against Zimbabwe in a Group B fixture at Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium on Monday.

After facing the Warriors, the Lions of Teranga will return to action with a clash against Guinea on January 15 before they play their final group game against Malawi on January 18.

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