Senegal national team talisman Sadio Mane claims that Senegal are determined to ease the pressure on coach Aliou Cisse by winning the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Senegal who are Nations Cup runners-up in 2019, were among the pre-tournament favourites, but endured a slow start in Cameroon.
The Teranga Lions began with a slim win over Zimbabwe followed by goalless draws against Guinea and Malawi in Group B, which led to media criticism of Cisse.
But Liverpool forward Mane’s brilliance helped them to dominating victories over Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso to reach the final.
“I believe Aliou Cisse deserves everything because he’s the most criticised coach I’ve ever seen in my life, but he never gives up,” Mane said before adding.
“He trusts himself, he trusts the group. He has critics outside, but right here he is doing his job.”
“Most importantly, we would like to win this for him and our country because he deserves it after everything he went through as a player for Senegal and now as the coach.”
“It will be a great reward for everything he has given to his country,” he added.
Cisse won 35 caps for Senegal during his playing career and captained the side at the 2002 World Cup as they beat holders France in their opening game and went on to reach the quarter-finals.
Senegal are chasing their first-ever Nations Cup triumph, having lost on both their previous appearances in the final.
Mane hopes he can break the duck for the West African nation and deliver their first-ever continental title.
“All the players know that we are very close to it now,” Mane noted.
“Being close again to the trophy doesn’t matter. We still have to work hard to win because we’ve been in the final years ago and this time we must do everything not let it slip. We have to win.”
Cisse, 45, has ended up on the beaten side as a player and a coach – missing the decisive penalty in the shoot-out defeat by Cameroon in the 2002 final.