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World Cup 2018 team previews: Senegal

World Cup 2018 team previews: Senegal
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Sadio Mane and his teammates will be hard-pressed to repeat Senegal’s 2002 quarter-final run.

FIFA Ranking: 27

World Cup history
– This will be Senegal’s second World Cup experience. Judging by the first one, it should be a lot of fun. The Lions of Teranga played in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. They were heavy underdogs in the matchup against potential title contender France. Rarely who knew anything about this African team. After the game, everyone knew who they were. A goal by Papa Bouba Diop gave Senegal a famous 1-0 win that echoed around the world as one the biggest surprises in World Cup history. France never recovered from the defeat, going out of the competition with a single point. In the meantime, the African team wasn’t done. After finishing second in the group, they defeated Sweden in the Round of 16 thanks to a Henri Camara golden goal in extra time, before losing in the quarter-finals to Turkey in the same manner. It was an amazing run for this Cinderella team.

How they qualified?
– After years of trying to repeat what happened in 2002, Senegal finally gathered a group worthy of WC qualification. Sadio Mane’s team didn’t have trouble topping CAF’s Group D, finishing five points clear of second placed Burkina Faso with 4 wins and 2 draws in six matches.

Full 23-man squad:

Goalkeepers:
Alfred Gomis (Torino)
Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes)
Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya AC)

Defenders:
Kara Mbodji (Anderlecht)
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Moussa Wague (Eupen)
Saliou Ciss (Angers)
Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux)
Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor)
Armand Traore (Nottingham Forest)
Salif Sane (Hannover 96)

Midfielders:
Alioune Ndiaye (Stoke)
Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham)
Cheikh N’Doye (Birmingham)

Forwards:
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Balde Keita (Monaco)
Ismaila Sarr (Rennes)
Diafra Sakho (Rennes)
Moussa Konate (Amiens)
Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke)
Mbaye Niang (AC Milan)

Coach: Aliou Cissé

Senegal’s Group H fixtures:
Senegal – Poland (19 June), Otkritie Arena
Senegal – Japan (24 June), Yekaterinburg Arena
Senegal – Colombia (28 June), Cosmos Arena

Sadio Mane is the heart and soul of this Senegalese squad. Much like Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, he’s the team’s carrier and one of the few players who can individually decide a game. Aliou Cisse’s team is deep in attack, with players like Monaco’s Balde Keita, Stoke’s Mame Diouf, Rennes’ Diafra Sakho and Milan’s Mbaye Niang all in hot pursuit for places in the starting lineup alongside the Liverpool star. As deep as the attack is, as shallow the midfield is. Although, it is definitely not a weakness. Stoke’s Alioune Ndiaye, Everton’s Idrissa “Gana” Gueye and West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate are all quality players. The danger is one of them getting injured, as replacements are virtually non-existent. Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, one of the most wanted center backs in Europe, leads the defense.

The Lions of Teranga are not as cohesive of a unit as the 2002 squad was, but they are equally as capable of pulling upsets and destroying people’s calculations. The problem is that all four group members are like them. We’ll see whether Senegal can raise to a different type of challenge this time around.

Star player:
Sadio Mane

Player to watch:
Balde Keita

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