Afcon 2019: Burundi will return in 2021 if they stick together – Berahino

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The 25-year-old striker believes the Swallows can stage a return to the continental showpiece by staying united

Saido Berahino is hopeful Burundi will return for the next Africa Cup of Nations following their elimination in the group stages of the 2019 tournament in Egypt.

Olivier Niyungeko’s men qualified for their first ever Afcon finals after they held Gabon to one-all draw in a playoff match Bujumbura in March.

The only time they came close to qualifying was for the 1994 edition, when they lost on penalties to Guinea in a playoff.

Having qualified in 2019, the Swallows were then drawn in Group B alongside Nigeria, Guinea and fellow debutants Madagascar.

Berahino, who featured in all of England’s age-grade teams before switching allegiances in August 2018, was handed the captain’s armband to lead the team in their debut appearance in Afcon.

Their first match in the tournament against Nigeria ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat, followed by a loss to Madagascar by the same margin, before bowing out of the competition with a 2-0 defeat to Guinea in their final group fixture.

The Swallows, who are 134th on the latest Fifa rankings, became the first team to lose their first three games at the Africa Cup of Nations since Niger and Botswana in 2012.

They also became the third nation to fail to score in their first three games at the Afcon finals after Ethiopia in 1957-1959 and Mozambique in 1986.

However, looking away from their disappointing appearance in the tournament, the former West Bromwich Albion striker believes the team can stage a return to Africa’s most prestigious football competition by remaining as a unit.

“I think we have the team,” Berahino told Caf’s official website.

“We have a group of players who are committed to the cause and if we continue sticking together, people will be seeing us here more often.

“This should help us put our feet in and expect to see us in 2021.”

Saido Berahino

The 25-year-old frontman, who only made his debut for the Burundi national side in September 2018, says he is honoured to have led his country to their first ever Afcon finals.

“It is a massive honour for me to be given this chance to captain my country and I feel really proud to be doing so," he added.

“We have worked well as a team for the entire period and I was really surprised at the level of talent in the team when I came in.

“It was great to come and be part of the journey."

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