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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Salah, Mane, and Keita should try with all they have to win the trophy – Lijnders

10:14 GMT+3 03/01/2022
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita of Liverpool.
The Reds assistant coach urges on the African trio to fight for the continental trophy when it kicks off in Cameroon on January 9

Liverpool assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders has called on forwards Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and midfielder Naby Keita to try and win the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 33rd edition of the African competition will kick off in Cameroon soon and run through to February 6. The three players will not be available for the Reds during that period as they will be representing their respective countries.

Salah, who scored his 16th Premier League goal of the season as Liverpool battled out to a 2-2 draw against Chelsea in a Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, will lead Egypt at the African showpiece.

Meanwhile, Mane, who also scored against the Blues, will feature for Senegal while Keita, who came in in the 69th minute for James Milner, will turn out for Guinea.

With the trio already off to link up with their respective national teams, Lijnders, who was handling the side in the absence of Jurgen Klopp, who was isolating after contracting Covid-19, has revealed the message he gave to the players.

Lijnders has also described Afcon as a tournament with so much passion, and so much culture insisting it is a really proud situation “if you can play for your country.”

“You can try to plan it but you can never prepare it. It is not a worry because we have faith in the boys we have and a few boys are coming back as well,” Lijnders told the club’s official website when asked about the departure of Mane, Salah, and Keita to Afcon.

“We know that certain players can play more offensively as well, they have been playing in midfield but they can play more offensively as well.

“I just told the boys as well that Naby, Salah and Sadio: that they should try to win the Afcon because it is a prize to catch and the careers are never long and they deserve to fight for each prize.

“This prize now comes in front of them – it’s a tournament with so much passion, so much culture and it is a really proud situation if you can play for your country if it’s England or Germany or Holland or whoever and that’s what they have and feel.

“So they are African legends, they are legends for me, but if they win it they will probably be even bigger legends so they should try with all they have to win it.”

Salah’s Pharaohs will open their campaign with a game against Nigeria on January 11; Mane’s Lions of Teranga will come up against Zimbabwe on January 10 while Keita’s Syli Nationale will kick off against Malawi on January 10.