José Machín (C) of Equatorial Guinea and Ismaila Sarr (R) of Senegal in action during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations AFCON quarter final soccer match between Senegal and Equatorial Guinea in Douala, Cameroon, 30 January 2022. EPA
Tuesday Feb 01, 2022. 16:00
Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse is delighted that he can finally utilise Ismaila Sarr at the Africa Cup of Nations following his arrival in Cameroon last week.
The 23-year-old winger was involved in a club versus country row ahead of the tournament after Watford refused to release him for AFCON duty due to a knee injury he sustained against Manchester United in November.
The Hornets had written to the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) outlining Sarr’s rehabilitation process and recovery period, but Cisse continued to push for his inclusion and the player eventually linked up with the national team on January 25.
The Generation Foot youth product made his first appearance in over two months when he came off the bench against Equatorial Guinea in the quarter-finals on Sunday and got on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win.
Cisse is unsure whether the Watford man can face Burkina Faso from the start in the semi-finals on Wednesday, but will continue to get him up to speed in the hope that he can play a bigger part in their campaign.
“We battled with Watford to get Ismaila with us,” he told ESPN. “We know his qualities, what he can do, can create, that he can score, and we’re very happy with his entrance [against Equatorial Guinea].
“We have 30 players; using our bench is very important, and we knew he could already come in. I worked hard for him to be part of the group, as did he, and he’s worked well as he came back from injury. I’m not sure if he can start a match, but for now we’ll use him little by little.
“While I was planning, I wanted to give him time in the quarter-final, as we did, and it worked well. We’ll continue to work like this, even though he’s a starter at Watford.
“He offers penetration, he frees up Sadio Mane, and it means that opponents have to beware on both flanks because if they’re dealing with Sarr then Mane can hurt them.
“We’re happy with what we’re seeing, and we’re going to help him continue like this.”