Morocco have their sights set on reaching the latter stages of the Africa Cup of Nations, according to midfielder Youssef Ait Bennasser.
Herve Renard’s side begin their campaign against Namibia, who are ranked 113th in the world, on Sunday and with tricky clashes against the Ivory Coast and South Africa still to come in Group D, they will be targeting all three points.
Monaco’s Ait Bennasser is hopeful Morocco can go far in the competition, something Renard is used to doing having lifted the trophy twice – first as Zambia boss in 2012 and then with the Ivory Coast in 2015.
Ait Bennasser told a press conference, reported by the Confederation of African Football’s official Twitter account: “Four years ago I joined the national team and it’s a huge honour.
“We want to go far in this tournament this time.”
Namibia manager Ricardo Mannetti insists his team are not there just to make up the numbers.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, he said: “Our expectations are putting in some good performances – we’re in the group of death but we’re not there just to be a number.
“We’ll try to impress everyone and make our fans happy.”
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Senegal coach Aliou Cisse accepts his side are one of the favourites for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Senegal’s best result at the continental tournament was in 2002 when they finished runners-up, but they are expected to challenge for a first crown in Egypt.
They begin their Group C campaign against Tanzania on Sunday, but Cisse is warning his side to take every game seriously.
They will be without Liverpool striker Sadio Mane, who is suspended after an accumulation of yellow cards during the qualification stage.
Cisse told the tournament’s official website: “We will take it game by game because we know that anything can happen.
“It is true that we are one of the favourites, but to reach that level we will have to beat everyone, and it will begin with Tanzania on June 23.
“We must focus on our abilities and not think of our opponents.
“Senegal and Algeria are the favourites of this group, but Kenya and Tanzania should not be underestimated. I can tell you, Senegal is not afraid of any team today.”
Burundi’s Africa Cup of Nations debut ended in a 1-0 defeat despite an encouraging display against an underwhelming Nigeria in Group B.
The minnows, ranked 134th in the world, were the better side in the first half, with Frederic Nsabiyumva hitting the crossbar.
However, their dream start was spoiled by former Watford striker Odion Ighalo, who scored within five minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute.
The Super Eagles, making their first appearance since winning the trophy in 2013 having missed the last two editions, came into the tournament as joint-third favourites but their performance did not suggest that.
Despite starting with Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze, the three-time winners struggled to impose themselves on their underdog opponents.
Burundi showed all the promise which had seen them come through their qualifying group as unbeaten runners-up, but they just could not make the breakthrough when on top.
Ighalo, Nigeria’s leading scorer in qualifying, came on in the 73rd minute and converted the best move of the match.
He latched on to the London-born former Chelsea academy graduate Ola Aina’s clever defence-splitting backheel to bend a shot around goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana and inside the far post
Underdogs Uganda sprang a surprise at the Africa Cup of Nations with a convincing 2-0 victory over a disappointing DR Congo side in Group A.
Patrick Kaddu’s flicked near-post header opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Uganda should have extended their lead before half-time with Emmanuel Okwi wasting a free header of his own.
Everton winger Yannick Bolasie nodded a corner wide before the break but DR Congo’s problems worsened when Okwi did find the target shortly after the restart with a glancing, looping header across Ley Matampi into the far corner.
Substitute Jonathan Bolingi hit the crossbar as Congo tried to find a response but they produced little in the way of a threat in the final 20 minutes.
Uganda’s victory lifted them above hosts Egypt into first place in Group A on goal difference.