2018 Russia World Cup Team Preview: Senegal
The 2018 World Cup kicks off on June 14 as host Russia takes on Saudi Arabia. Michezo Afrika will bring you comprehensive news as well as all important news about the African Teams involved. Check in every now and then for updates
Sadio Mane runs with the ball during Senegal's World Cup qualifying match against South Africa. Senegal are considered the only African team with a real chance to get to the knockout stages. PHOTO | COURTESY
Many have said that Senegal is the only African team that has a real chance to go beyond the group stages in the football tourney that is beginning less than 48 hours from now in Russia. The truth is there are no many facts to analyze Senegal's chances at only their second assault to the most coveted trophy in the world. Their debut World Cup in 2002 displayed some heroics after beating the then defending champions France 1-0 on their way to the quarterfinals, making it the only second team in Africa to make it to the last 8 then (Cameroon 1990, Senegal 2002, Ghana 2010).
Since then, the Senegal star that was fast rising dimmed. The team has been very unstable. Yet, in this second appearance, they find themselves in a group that seems very favourable. With a repeat of 2002 heroics, they could easily take the group. They have a squad that could easily cause an upset. Names of renown across Europe come to mind, Sadio Mane, Cheihkou Kouyate, Kalidou Koulibaly and many others. They may be a long shot at the title, or more accurately outliers, but no sane tactician or player should look down on this string of young players. They are no minnows.
There are many positives about this team that were non-existent in the 2002 heroics. To begin with, the experience in the current squad is more cosmopolitan as compared to the 2002 one that was almost all French. The crew, led by the three aforementioned are more experienced and more recognizable across Europe. Secondly, the group this team has been placed in has no serious threat like France in 2002. Their Roster actually sees them play the groups strongest team, Colombia last. This, in essence, means that Senegal should get maximum points in their first and second games against Poland and Japan respectively. Their chances are pretty good, but again this is football.
On the other hand, they have had a very poor run in their run-up friendlies to Russia 2018, putting a dent to their preparations. They have drawn thrice in their recent friendly matches against Uzbekistan, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Luxemburg. However, their qualifier record should be something to boost their confidence after they eased through qualifying in Africa.
Senegal's current head coach is former Captain, who wore the armband as the team cruised to the last eight in their debut appearance in South Korea/Japan 2002. Coach Aliou Cisse will look to remind the world of their success that year and affirm these crop of players of what they can achieve if they put their mind to work.
Players to watch in Russia 2018 World Cup
If there is any one player that can repeat the Al-Hadji Diouf or Henry Camara heroics of 2002, it would be Liverpool's forward Sadio Mane. He's got the pace, vision, stability and the finishing ability that could easily shoot Senegal atop group H, with the right support. The past two seasons have been a tremendous success for the Senegalese at the Anfield Stadium, banging the net 33 times in 73 appearances. He also had a fine last season which was unfairly but surely overshadowed by his teammate and Egyptian Mohamed Salah. The Lions of Teranga will be looking to him for inspiration at the tourney in Russia.
Senegal will look to Kalidou Koulibaly to provide the much-needed shield at the back. This 6 ft 5" Titan has been a reliable wall at Napoli henceforth attracting interest in different camps across Europe, including premier league giants Arsenal, Chelsea and Spanish giants Barcelona. He is undoubtedly among the elite defenders in Europe. Senegal will celebrate having grabbed him before his parent country, France could lay hands on him.
Others to watch will include 20-year-old speedster Ismaila Sarr as well as his forward counterpart Keita Balde. Cheihkou Kouyate will also bring in the much-needed experience.
Senegal Match Schedule Group H
Tuesday, June 19: Poland vs Senegal Moscow (Spartak)
Sunday, June 24: Japan vs Senegal Ekaterinburg
Thursday, June 28: Senegal vs Colombia Samara
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Alfred Gomis (SPAL), Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya).
Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Kara Mbodii (Anderlecht), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Salif Sane (Hannover), Moussa Wague (Eupen).
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Alfred Ndiaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City), Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham City), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes).
Forwards: Keita Balde (Monaco), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Sadio Mane (Liverpool, England), Mbaye Niang (Torino), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Moussa Sow (Bursaspor).