Sadio Mane will miss the first game of the African Cup nations. Photo: Peter Powell/EPA

CAIRO Senegal coach Aliou Cisse is not concerned about the absence of talisman Sadio Mane when his team kick off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Tanzania in Cairo on Sunday.

Mane is suspended after an accumulation of cautions in the qualifiers and is only available from Senegal’s second game in Group C of the tournament in Egypt.

"We would have preferred to have him playing. He is our best player, but we have players to make up for his absence," said Cisse, who also suggested that Mane is likely to benefit from sitting out the game after a long season with Champions League winners Liverpool.

Cisse also looked to downplay his side’s status as one of the pre-tournament favourites.

“We are challengers. The favourites are the teams that have won this tournament in the past. Senegal have never won the Africa Cup of Nations. Egypt have won it seven times!” he said.

“But we know our strength. We are real challengers. To get to the semi-finals would be expected from this team." 

Reuters