FORMER Senegal defender Ferdinand Coly has warned his country against underrating Zimbabwe ahead of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals next year.
Senegal were pooled with Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi in Group B for next year’s finals that will be held in Cameroon.
Many have tipped the Lions of Teranga to cruise through in Group B.
Another former Senegal star El Hadji Diouf is actually tipping the 2019 Afcon finalists to go all the way this time and claim the trophy.
But the former right back is cautious and says it will not be easy for Senegal. He believes the level of competition at the next Afcon, set for January in Cameroon, will be high.
“Zimbabwe and Malawi are opponents that have to be taken seriously,” Coly warned.
“But for me, the team that can shake up Senegal is of course Guinea. She has always been a tough opponent. Today they have players in the making. It will be a great confrontation, a West African derby,” he added.
“We will perhaps go there (Cameroon) with a nervous mind, but we will have to concentrate, knowing that it will be a competition that will last three to four weeks. We must look for ways to get out of this group first, then go through the eighth, quarter, semi and final. Take the matches seriously, try to add intensity at every stage.”
However, Cheikh Sidy Ba, another former Senegal defender, who currently coaches one of that country’s junior national teams, believes the Aliou Cisse-coached side were handed a “pretty easy group” and is expected to qualify to the next stage without any problems.
“I think Senegal is in a pretty easy pool. We may have Guinea who will be our most difficult opponent to play against. But as for Malawi and Zimbabwe, these are opponents within Senegal’s reach. Logically, Senegal is the favourite of the group,” he said.
“But the coach still needs to respect all opponents and be at the same level as Guinea, Zimbabwe and Malawi to win his matches. Nothing is won in advance. Difficult encounters, that is to be expected,” he added.
Zimbabwe will be making their fifth appearance at the Afcon finals, looking to progress past the group stages for the first time.
Former Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa has said the team was given an easy group and should utilise the opportunity to make history.
He has, however, warned that the team has to be well-funded for it to realise its dream.
Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušic, who is expected to name the squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifying matches this week, games that will be used to prepare for the Afcon finals, is bullish about his team’s chances of progressing past the group stages.
He expects the group to be open and competitive without an absolute favourite despite the presence of Senegal.
The Croat said all teams in the group should not be undermined on paper as the terrain of African football has changed.