Fadiga honours Gambia and Equatorial Guinea; They deserve respect

Former Senegal international Khalilou Fadiga has paid tribute to the performance produced by Gambia and Equatorial Guinea at the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Cameroun 2021, saying he has seen the emergence of new talents that were not expected at this very high-level competition.

Gambia a historic qualification into the quarterfinals after beating Guinea 1-0 last Monday as the Scorpions continue to send shockwaves in their debut appearance — who were without a loss in the competition so far until they were stopped 2-0 by the hosts Cameroun on Saturday.

Asked in an interview with CAFOnline.com what is his assessment of the round of 16, Fadiga — a member of the Technical Study Group (TSG) — he “would not have bet on certain results, such as the elimination of Côte d’Ivoire and Mali”.

Fadiga, former Senegal international

“After their match against Algeria, I saw Côte d’Ivoire going far. Beating the holders 3-1 in style, The Elephants had given themselves the means to be part of the teams that could go to the end of the competition.

“But they can console themselves by saying that they fell against a great team from Egypt that also did not steal their victory. There is Mali who made a good impression in the first round but fell to Equatorial Guinea.

“Too bad because we could have had a nice zonal derby in the quarters against Senegal. Like what the first matches are not the only explanation of a good campaign, you also have to know how to be pragmatic.


CAFonline: Can teams be expected to be more conservative in those matches?

Fadiga: In the quarterfinals, there is the mental and tactical preparation, and the technical quality of the players. In this part of the competition, the most lucid players and coaches will win. In both surfaces, it would be necessary to know how to be effective.

CAFonline: Can we consider Gambia as one of the sensations of this Africa Cup of Nations?

Fadiga: The Gambia has been teasing big nations for a long time. In youth competitions, they often had their word. Technically, the young Gambian national teams often managed to match the others. They like to have the ball and play.

Remember Gambia was U-20 West Zone A champions. Seeing their senior team at this level is not a very big surprise, even if it is their first major competition. At this Africa Cup of Nations, Gambia qualified against great football nations.

They managed to seize their chance. With the confidence, those Scorpions would have to be taken care of. Gambia and Equatorial Guinea impressed me during this competition and if they continue to work, they can upset certainties.

CAFonline: Can we still say of The Gambia that it came from very far away?

Fadiga: Yes, really. They qualified after playing the preliminaries, but let’s recognize that a job has been well done in this country for several years. They are reaping the fruits of this work.

The Gambia is a collective team. There is No. 10 (Musa Barrow) and the playmaker Ablie Jallow who are good individuals, but in general, it is their collective work that takes precedence above all. And that’s what makes it fun.

CAFonline: What about Equatorial Guinea which after beating Algeria and Sierra Leone, eliminated Mali?

Fadiga: When you see this team, it was built around a collective group of players who know how to handle the ball. They have a coach who learned in the best training centers in Europe.

Equatorial Guinea is a playful team and has a physical condition well above average. Against Mali, in the 120th minute, they continue to run. It’s incredible and mentally, it’s difficult to move them. They deserve to be there because tactically, physically and technically they are there.

CAFonline: Should Senegal fear this team?

Fadiga: No at all, Senegal must have respect, there is no reason to be afraid, but they should prepare for this match in the best possible way by giving this team all the respect. Maximum respect because they are a strong opponent.

It is not on paper that the match will be won but on the ground. After a sluggish start, Teranga Lions entered the competition phase. In competition, you have to know how to go to the essentials, Senegal does not play a good game, but it responds present.

Malawi v Senegal

CAFonline: Who are the players that impressed you during this competition?

Fadiga: There is Jallow from Gambia, Gabadinho Mhango from Malawi, and John Takwara from Zimbabwe. That’s the beauty of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Despite the presence of big stars, young footballers or those playing in less upscale championships manage to do well. This means that there is quality everywhere, and with work, African football will move forward.