A dejected Senegal boss Aliou Cisse says it was “tough to see the players cry” in the locker room after their shock penalty shootout defeat by Cote d’Ivoire in the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations last 16.
The reigning champions were dumped out 5-4 on penalties by the tournament hosts on Monday following a dramatic 1-1 draw after extra time.
“I am disappointed after this result, especially for our players. We came here to retain the title and play for our people,” rued Cisse.
The coach said losing in such fashion after dominating the match made the pain worse.
“It’s tough to see the players cry in the locker room. The match was strange and complicated; we could have won,” Cisse noted.
Senegal led until the 86th minute when Franck Kessie equalized from the penalty spot. And Cisse felt his side failed to manage the game well enough when it mattered most.
“We lost on penalties; we kept our lead until the last 5 minutes. I am disappointed after this defeat, especially after our performance and from the first match,” he lamented.
With Senegal’s trophy defense now over, Cisse acknowledged changes are inevitable as the team looks to rebuild.
“We need to make changes after this defeat; we’ll see what happens in the future. There is sorrow, and our players are sad, as is the Senegalese people,” the coach admitted.
However, Cisse took pride in Senegal’s undefeated group stage campaign. “We prepared well and let’s not forget we have 3 wins in 3 matches,” he added.
After falling short of retaining their title in dramatic fashion, Cisse knows Senegal must pick themselves up and work to bounce back stronger.