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Senegal bomber raises the Ba


Senegal are one of the favourites for this year's Africa Cup of Nations because of the red-hot form of striker Demba Ba.

The goals of the big centre-forward are one of the reasons Newcastle United are flying high in the English Premier League this season.

The former Hoffenheim striker has netted 15 goals in 19 outings for Newcastle so far. He was voted the best player in the EPL for December with various reports linking him with a big-money transfer before the end of his three-year contract.

It is a sharp contrast to when he failed a medical early last year and it looked like a career in the top flight was all but over for him.

His dream was always to star in the English Premier League and despite the reluctance of German club Hoffenheim, he left for England but did not sign for Stoke City after a medical showed some problems with his knee.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has described Ba's knees as "a ticking time bomb".

But West Ham took a chance on him when they contracted him on a pay-as-you-play basis. He repaid their confidence by scoring seven goals in a dozen appearances even though the London club would be relegated.

Ba, who has been hailed as "a winner" by Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, will remain grounded despite his recent exploits, insisting he is self driven and not out to prove wrong those who doubt him.

"Any time I'm on the pitch, I want to do something to prove to myself, not to people," he said in a recent interview.

"All the problems were behind me when I signed and started playing football. I'm not a quitter and I have shown I'm totally fit as well as shown my quality."

Senegal's Teranga Lions have paraded some of the most accomplished finishers in Africa like the legendary Jules Bocande and most recently El Hadji Diouf.

The 26-year-old Ba has continued this line of top-class strikers as Senegal aim for a first-ever Nations Cup triumph in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

He is strong, explosive, superb in the air and uses his physical presence to telling effect.

An international since 2007, he is in great company in a revived Teranga Lions side who boast of an intimidating line-up of other strikers like the experienced Mamadou Niang, Papiss Demba Cisse, Souleymane Camara and Moussa Sow.

He may have only scored four goals in a dozen outings with Senegal, but many believe now is the time for him to shine in his first major international tournament with his country.

"Senegal have never been very far away in major competitions," said Ba, who scored the winner in a recent warm-up match against fellow Nations Cup finalists Sudan in Dakar.

"We have the quality that makes us one of the favourites in this competition.  

"However, we must learn from our past mistakes and ensure we do not repeat these mistakes."