Former France international Patrick Vieira, who was born in Senegal and still has business interests in the west African nation, believes the U23 Teranga Lions squad could create a surprise at the 2012 London Olympics although many local pundits surmise the contrary.
The Senegal team defeated Oman 2-0 in Coventry, England last month to clinch their first Olympic Games ticket to the men’s football tournament and joined Gabon, Egypt, and Morocco as African representatives.
The 35-year-old former defensive midfielder, who currently works as football development executive at Manchester City, counts on the young talents that make up the Senegal team, most of whom are European based.
“I am persuaded that Senegal will have their say at the London Olympics even though this will be their first appearance. The team is made up of young talents who already have good exposure in Europe,” Vieira told Fifa.com on Thursday.
“Teams like Brazil are being favoured in the previews because they have been used to these kinds of competitions. But Senegal have what it takes to create surprise and be a serious opponent at the Games. I will have to wish them success and I’ll be personally there to cheer them to victory,” he added.
The tournament will be held between July 25 and August 11 in London and several other cities in the United Kingdom.
Vieira, former France goalkeeper Bernard Lama and Benin ex-international Jimmy Adjovi Bocco are involved in the Senegal-based Diambars Project, which is a modern academy that teaches football and regular secondary school curriculum.