CAIRO (Reuters) - Senegal are steadfastly focused on their ambition to win a first Africa Cup of Nations despite some heavy criticism from home after a hiccup in the opening round, said midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye on Thursday.
“Everyone made us the competition favourite but then we lost against Algeria, we were subjected to a lot of criticism about our abilities,” he told a news conference on the eve of Senegal’s meeting with Uganda in the last 16 in Cairo on Friday.
“But we have never lacked ambition.”
Senegal are Africa’s top ranked team and comfortably dispatched both Kenya and Tanzania in their group games but their 1-0 loss to Algeria in Cairo unleashed unexpected vitriol from their own fans.
“We are always asked why we have not been able to win the Cup of Nations and we’re trying to find the answer,” the Everton player said.
“Now we are in the round of 16, will we reach the final? I don’t know, but we are stronger than before. We hope we can win this time. We are prepared to play against any team,” he said.
“We are aiming for the same goal, but everyone knows it’s difficult.”
At the last Cup of Nations finals in Gabon two years ago, Senegal were also heavily fancied and enhanced that status with impressive performances in the group phase.
But they then lost to Cameroon on penalties in the quarter-finals with talisman Sadio Mane squandering the vital kick in the shootout.
Senegal have been to the Cup of Nations finals just once — losing on penalties to Cameroon in Bamako, Mali in 2002.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Alison Williams