Everton's talented defensive midfielder shows Senegal's ambitions on the verge of the African Cup of Nations in the first game of the Téranga Lions in the competition against Tanzania.
at 06/23/2019 at 02:00
Group C CAN
Have you played twice in the African Nations Cup, what are your eyes on this competition? What makes your charm and originality?
It is an extremely complicated competition, which is very important for all players on the African continent. Winning the CAN is never easy.
"No matter the format, we are here to play. After that, it is good to increase the number of qualified countries."
There are no small countries, all teams are the same. Often, we see surprises, favorites that come out in the first round, so we prepare for all eventualities. It will be strong mentally, it will work well and especially it will keep the focus on our goal.
Do you suspect a particular opponent?
Not really. We are getting ready to meet everyone regardless of the level of the nation. Everyone wants to win, we hope to find all kinds of opponents. But for us, we focus on our team and what we want to do. We know where we want to go, we will do everything to satisfy the Senegalese people. We do not have time to lose in the calculation, because there is no calculation to be made.
What memories do you have of the previous two editions?
These are obviously the eliminations … Especially the first time in 2015 when we are in the group stage. It was very complicated.
"Offensively and defensively, we have what we need and we are well equipped."
We really thought we did the best after winning the first game against Ghana but then we had a real disappointment against Algeria. For the second time, we are eliminated in the quarterfinals on penalties by Cameroon, who won the competition. It was also difficult because if we had managed to beat them, we could have come to an end. That year we had a very good team and we played well. So I have rather painful memories, and we hope to erase them this summer.
CAN adopts this year a new format with 24 teams, what do you think of the player?
Whatever the format, we are here to play. After that, it is good to increase the number of qualified countries. This gives the chance for some nations to discover the competition, there will be more games and more atmosphere. It will be even more complicated than before.
This is also the first time the competition takes place in the summer …
And that will change many things. We will have time to rest after a long season and we can prepare well together. We hope this translates into more quality in the game and previously the competition was in the middle of the season and was often physically complicated.
With Koulibaly, Mané, Niang, Sarr and others, Senegal has a real generation of gold and is a favorite of the competition. What do you think are the team's strengths?
Offensively and defensively, we have what we need and we are well equipped.
"What I like is to stop the attacks of the opposing team."
Especially in the front, it's true, we have very good players that can make a difference at any time. In today's football, when games are closed without many opportunities, it's worth it. Now, as we know, individualities will not suffice. What is needed above all is the good cohesion of the staff. Let's unite and work together to make this happen. In my opinion, that's what we lost in the last competitions. You have to have a good mindset because a CAN is too long. The competition will be tough, there will be competition. The coach will have to make choices, put the players in the bank. So we have to stay together, no matter who touches, work for each other and stay together. Only then can we do that.
In this flashy team, you have the shadow worker role. What do you prefer in your post 6?
What I like is to stop the attacks of the opposing team. When there is a good opportunity for the players on the way to score and you can impose yourself, break all of an interception and kick back quickly so we can start a counterattack … He returns the game, that's what's beautiful in that role . The opposing team thinks that it will pass until the last moment, then it leaves immediately on the other side. Getting a good tackle, a good recovery, puts you in your game and gives you confidence and serenity. It's a real pleasure to play in that position.
In the media, you are often compared to N ° Golo Kanté, with whom you share similar statistics. But his model is Lassana Diarra …
That's right, younger I loved to see him play. I was inspired by him. When I was little in the neighborhood, my idol was David Beckham.
"The coach has been telling us since the start of qualifying: the only thing that counts is to bring the cup back to Senegal."
But when I got to the training center and started playing in that defensive position in the midfield, to become a real number 6, I saw what was happening in the pros and Diarra was the player I preferred. I watched their video games, I liked their way of defending, but mostly of using the ball. He was a good football player.
To return to CAN, Senegal has never gained anything at the international level. Can you, in your opinion, speak in psychological blockage?
Not for the players, anyway. As I have said many times, the elders wrote the story in 2002. We can not erase it, and we do not try to erase it. Rather, we want to build what they did well to move forward. Now it's up to us to write our own story and bring the cup back to Senegal one day.
You get a terrible blow at the last World Cup, where you were eliminated in the number of yellow cards against Japan. How to rebuild after that?
We are professionals, so we always expect all possible scenarios, but it is true that being eliminated in this way has been terrible for us.
"Diambars, it's very beautiful. This is an example for Africa."
But now, we had to accept and get up. Anyway, we did not have time to think too much. We had to go back to our respective clubs and return to work for CAN qualifiers. I would not say it's forgotten, but we managed to move on and focus on this new goal: to win the CAN.
It is the obsession of his coach, Aliou Cissé.
He told us from the beginning of qualifying: the only thing that counts is to bring the cup back to Senegal. At the moment, we knew how to do the right thing. What he brought to the team, everyone knows, is seriousness, rigor. It is the desire to work every day, the desire to win every game. From now on, we all go in that direction.
This was not the case before?
He managed to instill in us a true culture of winning, a discipline of work.
"Before, it was often said that the players who came in the team believed in the holidays. It was seen as a parenthesis of rest when we left our clubs."
Before, it was often said that the players came to the team that they thought they were on vacation. It was seen as a parenthesis of rest when we left our clubs. He made everyone understand that the national team is the most important thing, that a whole country looks at us and trusts us. We can make a whole country happy with our performances, continue to make a nation live in peace and happiness. But it goes through victories, very important games that you have to win. He got it in our head.
One last word, finally, in Diambars. Like his team-mates Saliou Ciss and Pape Alioune No Diaye, you have the distinction of having been trained in the gym set up by Jimmy Adjovi-Bocco, Saer Seck, Bernard Lama and Patrick Vieria in 2003. Again, this is a good group shot.
Diambars, it's very beautiful. This is an example for Africa. They have opened the door to many players who have been successful today and are now established on the national team. Many training centers in Africa have now taken their example. Like Generation Foot, it has its way, but it works great too. This is very good for Senegal and for the African continent in general. I hope there will be more after us and this will continue.
Interviewed by Christophe Gleizes