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(Reuters) – Senegal are experienced enough to leave a mark at the World Cup after claiming their first Africa Cup of Nations title this year, manager Aliou Cisse said on Friday.

Senegal will start their campaign against the Netherlands on Nov. 21 in Group A before facing hosts Qatar and Ecuador.

“We’ve remained focused on the most important things. We’re getting closer to achieving our goal with every competition, and the most recent has given us every reason to believe that. Hard work always pays off,” Cisse said in an interview with FIFA.

“Our first objective is to get out of this group. After that, we’ll be in a knockout tournament, and we have enough experience to leave our mark on this competition.”

Cisse added that Senegal did not feel greater pressure due to being AFCON champions but were aware of it.

“Pressure is something you have to deal with as an elite level sportsperson. We have worked tirelessly to achieve what we have. We’ve taken the time we needed to progress,” he said.

Cisse is among the longest-serving national team coaches in African football, having taken over in 2015, and led his country to the Cup of Nations and the last World Cup in Russia.

“Personally, it feels like I only started yesterday. We’ve set ourselves some very clear objectives and come on slowly but surely, although we’ve often felt (others’) impatience. We’ve remained focused on the most important things,” he added.

“I’m very happy with their level of application and their mentality. It’s this love, this hard work and their professional side that have allowed us to succeed. It’s through this solidarity that we will be able to win.”

(Reporting by Silvia Recchimuzzi in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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