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

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Edouard Mendy and Kalidou KoulibalyEdouard Mendy (left) and Kalidou Koulibaly have helped Senegal remain the top-ranked side in Africa for three years

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."

Koulibaly, who captains his country, said he is asymptomaticexternal-link 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.

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

The tournament kicks off on Sunday, when hosts Cameroon face Burkina Faso at 16:00 GMT.

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