Afcon 2021: Mendy and Koulibaly out of Senegal opener against Zimbabwe

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YAOUNDE, Cameroon (BBC) – Senegal will be without goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and defender Kalidou Koulibaly for their opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations after both players tested positive for coronavirus.

The Teranga Lions, runners-up at the 2019 edition of the tournament, face Zimbabwe in their opening Group B game on Monday (13:00 GMT).

Chelsea keeper Mendy, centre-back Koulibaly and striker Famara Diedhiou have all gone into isolation.

Coach Aliou Cisse said: “It’s a difficult and complicated situation.”

Cisse looks set to have just 17 players available for the match in Bafoussam because of several Covid-19 cases and injuries.

But he added: “We are going to be competitive and those there are going to play for those who are absent. We are still going into the game against Zimbabwe full of confidence.”

Senegal’s Group B opponents Guinea and Malawi, who meet on Monday, have also lost players to positive tests while Moroccan pair Aymen Barkok and Auyoub El Kaabi are out of their Group C opener against Ghana in Yaounde on Monday.

Nations Cup rules state countries must play if they have 11 players available – even if they do not have a recognised goalkeeper.

QPR’s Dieng in line to start in goal

Koulibaly, who captains his country, said he is asymptomatic and club side Napoli said he had been vaccinated. The 30-year-old centre-back has not played since 1 December because of injury.

Senegal travelled to Cameroon on Wednesday without six other players who returned positive tests before their departure.

Second-choice goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, Saliou Ciss, Bamba Dieng, Mame Baba Thiam, Pape Matar Sarr and Nampalys Mendy were all left behind in Dakar.

Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Seny Dieng, who has made one international appearance, is in line to start against Zimbabwe.

Watford forward Ismaila Sarr and Abdoulaye Seck are not fully fit.

Further infections at tournament

Burkina Faso were without coach Kamou Malo and six players for the opening game of the tournament against Cameroon on Sunday because of positive tests.

Meanwhile, Malawi’s head of technical panel Mario Marinica and six players have been ruled out of their game against Guinea, who reported four more cases of their own over the weekend.

The west Africans, who were forced to leave three players behind at their training camp in Rwanda, saw defenders Fode Camara and Ibrahima Sory Conte, midfielder Mory Konate and forward Morgan Guilavogui all test positive.

Gabon captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was ruled out of their game against Comoros after a positive lateral flow test on arrival in Cameroon on Thursday.

Cape Verde, Egypt, The Gambia and Tunisia have also all had players test positive in the build-up to the Nations Cup.