Burkina Faso can find 'motivation' from ongoing coup at home - coach

Head coach Kamou Malo believes that success at the Africa Cup of Nations can help the embattled Burkina Faso population smile again amidst a Coup d'Etat and political instability back home since the start of the biennial continental showpiece.

The West African nation's domestic crisis has intensified since Jan. 23 when military forces overthrew the government after outlining their discontent with the authorities' inability to deal with increasing Islamist insurgency and armed terrorist attacks in the country.

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Yet Malo, whose Stallions side face Senegal in Wednesday's first semifinal at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde, believes that events back in his homeland can serve as additional motivation for the Nations Cup outsiders.

"For several years we've had to face terrorism which hasn't stopped plunging our people into mourning," he told journalists on Tuesday. "Our objective now is to bring back a smile to our population.

"If we can, through our sporting endeavours, give hope, we won't compromise any effort. What's been going on back home represents an additional motivation for us."

Burkina Faso defeated Gabon on penalties in the round of 16 only hours after gunfire was heard at the presidential residence and other sites in the capital Ouagadougou, before dispatching Tunisia 1-0 in the quarterfinals to progress.

President Roch Kabore was detained and subsequently deposed from his position, with the military seizing power in the country.

"We've dedicated our qualification thus far to our people who are living through such political and social events," former police officer Malo added. "We know that our achievements will be remembered by our people, and we're keen to give them the trophy."

Having been defeated semifinalists in 1998 -- on home soil -- and 2017, they're now hoping to go one better than the generation of 2013, who were defeated 1-0 by Nigeria in the Johannesburg final.

They are outsiders against Senegal -- defeated finalists in 2019 -- and the Teranga Lions are well aware of how the intensifying crisis in Burkina Faso could serve as extra motivation as the Stallions look to cause an upset.

"In terms of motivation, we're aware of what's happening in Burkina Faso," Senegal coach Aliou Cisse told ESPN. "But they can't be more motivated than us -- we are as motivated as them and as determined as them.

"The pressure on Kamou is different to the pressure on me, it's linked to the instability in his country, and of course this could push them to advance.

"However, the reality is that, on the pitch, two big, strong teams will meet, both have worked hard, both have experienced difficulties, and both Burkina Faso and Senegal have overcome them to prove their mental strength."

Burkina Faso will likely have to contend with a full complement of Senegal attackers when the two sides collide, with the influential Sadio Mane netting twice in the competition so far and Ismaila Sarr belatedly joining the squad to great effect after recovering from the injury that's kept him sidelined since November.

Sarr will be an option for Aliou Cisse off the bench against Burkina Faso, after the Teranga Lions head coach won his battle with Watford to have the wideman available for the latter stages of the tournament.

"His arrival has been a big lift for the whole of the squad, and he's come to push us forward," Cisse told ESPN. "His entrance against Equatorial Guinea was really encouraging, but we need to manage him well.

"He wants to be here, he's happy to be here, and if we need him, we'll use him.

"There was lots of discussion between the Senegal Federation and Watford and we finally found a consensus for the boy to come. His arrival has been important, and we thank [Watford] for that."

Cisse confirmed that Senegal's squad have all returned negative COVID-19 tests ahead of their semi, with Villarreal forward Boulaye Dia, who was replaced after taking a knock against Equatorial Guinea, the only doubt.

"It's always important to have everyone available, as a coach it gives you more options, more cards in my hand," Cisse added. "I have the possibility to change things during the match, but we have to patient, and have to impose our own game.

"We don't want extra time or penalties, but if we do, we'll deal with it. The most important thing is to go through."

Senegal are aiming to reach their third Nations Cup final, having been defeated finalists in 2002, against Cameroon, and 2019, when they were dispatched 1-0 by Algeria.

Egypt and Nations Cup hosts Cameroon meet in the second semifinal at the Stade d'Olembe on Thursday, before the final at the same venue on Sunday.