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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Mane inspires Senegal to reach new heights - Lopy

3:06 AM SGT 2/2/22
Sadio Mane (R) of Senegal in action against Ivan Salvador of Equatorial Guinea.
The Teranga Lions midfielder has shed light on what the Liverpool superstar contributes behind the scenes

Sadio Mane inspires his Senegal teammates to reach greater heights and take their game to a new level, according to midfielder Joseph Lopy, who has shed light on the Liverpool talisman’s influence in the Teranga Lions camp at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mane has been one of Afcon’s star performers so far, netting twice and registering one assist as Senegal have advanced to Wednesday’s semifinal against Burkina Faso at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde.

The forward may be one of Africa’s most high-profile players — and one of the world’s finest attackers — but teammate Lopy has highlighted the extent to which the 29-year-old helps his compatriots off the pitch, as well as on it.

“He knows things we don’t know,” Lopy told GOAL. “He’s a generous person who shares things with us without having to be asked first.

“He always works hard, and this then makes us work hard. It gives us a taste of a higher level, which can show us that maybe we’re not working hard enough.

“Sadio inspires us to see a higher level of football, and is an example to follow,” Lopy added. “He pushes us to work harder on the pitch in case we don’t.”

As an attacking force, Senegal offered little during the group stage, only dispatching Zimbabwe thanks to Mane’s 97th-minute penalty, before being held 0-0 by Guinea and then Malawi.

However, they’ve come alive in the knockout stage, with Mane on the scoresheet in a 2-0 victory against Cape Verde, before then registering an assist as Equatorial Guinea were beaten 3-1 in Yaounde on Sunday.

Head coach Aliou Cisse told GOAL after the match how the arrival of Watford’s Ismaila Sarr — who missed the start of the tournament as he recovers from injury — helped free up Mane to have a greater influence in the quarterfinal, and Lopy has also tipped the Hornets wideman to have a part to play in the team’s semifinal showdown.

“He wants to be here, it’s a really essential thing,” the Sochaux midfielder continued. “He wants to be here alongside us to represent the country, and we’re happy to have such an important player.
“We all hope that he can make a big contribution to the team.”

Senegal are aiming to reach their third Nations Cup final, having been defeated finalists in 2002 and 2019, while Burkina Faso - who lost against Nigeria in the showpiece in 2013 - are also aiming for their first title.