World Cup 2018 is knocking the doors and the 32 participating nations are now highly enthusiastic and fully focused upon completion of club football. They are proud to represent their countries in such a prestigious event and a few of them, on paper, is capable of becoming the ‘dark horse’ of the competition. Senegal are probably one of them.
The Lions of Teranga appeared only once in this prestigious event before. But they shook the world in their first ever World Cup fixture defeating reigning champions France in 2002 and eventually making it to the quarter-finals of the competition. They have returned to the competition once again missing out on the three previous editions and possess a squad capable of scripting a similar story this term in Russia.
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Captain: Cheikhou Kouyate
Nickname(s): Les Lions de la Téranga(The Lions of Teranga)
Last Qualified: 2002
Result in 2014: Did Not Qualify
Qualified From: CAF
World Cup Appearances: 2 Times
Best World Cup Finals Result: Quarter-final (2002)
The Final Squad
GOALKEEPERS: Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya AC), Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Alfred Gomis (Torino)
MIDFIELDERS: Pape Alioune Ndiaye (Stoke), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Cheikh N’Doye (Birmingham)
FORWARDS: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Diao Balde Keita (Monaco), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke), Mbaye Niang (AC Milan)
1) Sadio Mane
The Liverpool winger has to be their biggest star, particularly after a majestic Champions League final display despite ending up on losing side. Senegal have a plethora of stars who are playing with distinction in Europe’s best league, however, Mane will be spearheading their attack and must step up on such a big occasion to lead his nation forward.
2) Idrissa Gueye
Although Everton have not been spot on with their transfer business in recent years, the acquisition of former Aston Villa midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye is arguably the best signing made by the Merseyside Blues. He has been colossal in the middle of the park with his all-round display of marshalling the backline, box-to-box runs along with great tackling, holding and dribbling traits. He, alongside skipper Kouyate, will be entitled to dominate the midfield game.
3) Kalidou Koulibaly
Senegal have an exciting attacking third as well as midfield, but the defence is full of unfamiliar resources except for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly who has emerged as one of the most highly-rated centre-backs of world football. The 6 ft 5 in tall defender will have to lead his backline and maintain composure throughout the contest.
Senegal remained unbeaten during the qualifiers and made it to the main event without much trouble. But their current form has been a concern as they have drawn the friendlies against Uzbekistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Luxembourg and lost to Croatia a couple of days back. They will feature against South Korea on 11th June and must seek a victory in order to uplift their confidence before entering the main event.
They have been drawn alongside Poland, Colombia, and Japan in Group H. They will play Poland in their opening match on 19th of June, followed by Japan and Colombia on 24nd and 28th June respectively.
All the four teams of Group H are pretty balanced and capable of making it to the knockouts. It will be a close contest and Senegal need to be their absolute best to proceed to the Round of 16. They have a promising set of players, but the task will be colossal to progress beyond that.
It will be the second major tournament for Aliou Cisse as a coach after he reached the quarter-final of the African Cup of Nations in 2017. As a player, he captained Senegal in their only World Cup (2002).