Salif, in the group stages you play Tanzania, Algeria and Kenya. Which game do you expect to be the toughest?
All the teams in our group are strong. That’s why I don’t want to pick out one team in particular. If we don’t play at our best in every game, then it will be tough, but I’m convinced that we’ll go into every match highly focused and we won’t hold anything back. Then it won’t be easy to beat us.
Your team, Senegal, are one of the favourites to win the cup.
I keep on reading and hearing that plenty of experts see us as the favourites. We’re honoured by that, but we’re not the only team that have been named favourites. There are several teams who have the potential to win the title.
What aim have you set as a team?
We want to play at our best and fulfil the expectations of our many fans. The people of Senegal have had to wait for a title for far too long.
You were also a part of the Senegal team at the AFCON four years ago, but didn’t play. The 2018 World Cup was your first big tournament. Will your experiences from playing in Russia help you?
Definitely. We had a good World Cup last summer, but unfortunately didn’t progress through the group due to the fair play rule. It was a very unfortunate moment for my teammates and I. (Editor’s note: as Senegal finished level on points and goal difference with Japan, and both teams had drawn when they played their group match, the fair play rule came into play. As Japan had accumulated fewer yellow cards in the competition, they progressed out of the group.)
Have your Schalke teammates wished you luck for the tournament?
I’ve received a lot of messages from the lads in the last few days. They’re keeping their fingers crossed for me. A few of my teammates have also said that I should come back to Gelsenkirchen with a gold medal around my neck. They want to see it at training. That would make me very proud.