‘The Lions of Teranga’ have qualified to the FIFA World Cup after a gap of 16 years. It was a surprising one for all as majority of the Senegal players were not playing in European Clubs and also they failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The 16 year drought had come to an end for Senegal, after the appointment of Aliou Cissé as Head Coach. Alisou was part of the Senegal team and also represented Senegal in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
In the qualification process, Senegal faced lots of hurdles, their match against South Africa ended in a controversy due to bad referring. Senegal Football Association had appealed to FIFA and FIFA had cancelled the match. Senegal had won 4 out of 6 games and qualified as the 4th country from CAF region to 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Senegal had a good run in 2017 African Cup of Nations, the team had topped in their group, any way they had been kicked out by Cameroon in the Quater Finals.
● Squad Analysis :
○ Goalkeeping :
Khadim N’Diaye will be the first choice keeper for Senegal, he was also a part of the U-23 side and has a good relationship with the gaffer Aliou. He will be followed by Diallo who has played for France in U-19 and U-23 along with him another goalie was also there, Gomis. Both Gomis and Diallo have less chances to be in the playing XI.
○ Defence :
Senegal is looking solid in its defence, Kara and Koulibaly will be the two centre-backs providing wall to the goalie as both have represented more than 30 games for their National Team. If there were any change in the centre-back position it means Salif Sané will get a chance. Gassama will be the Right Back who is having enough experience as he was the part of Lyon and spent 4 years there. Sabaly will be the teams Left Back who was a part of PSG and spent there 10 years.
○ Midfield :
Cheikhou Kouyaté and
Alfred N’Diaye, this duo will be the Centre Midfield pairing. Kouyate will also lead the team, he is currently playing for West Ham United and scored 12 goals for them, in the NT side he has scored a total of 4 goals. Diaye, the youngest player who has a bag full of tricks and he had played for Spanish and English Clubs. Everton’s left winger Gueye will be the left winger and he will also be deployed as a defensive midfielder if any change in the formation. N’Doye will be the right winger for the Senegal.
○ Forward :
The entire nation will be relying upon Sadio Mané, the Liverpool winger was solid in his stint at Anfield this season. Along with Mané, Sakho will also shine, the Rennes striker is waiting to show his skill.
● Probable XI And Formation :
Khadim N’Diaye (GK);
Gassama, Kara, Koulibaly, Sabaly;
N’Doye, Kouyaté, N’Diaye, Gueye;
● Team Ratings :
○ Goalkeeping: 6.5/10
○ Defence: 6/10
○ Midfield: 6/10
○ Forward: 7/10
○ Overall Rating: 6.375/10
● Fixtures :
○ 19th June 2018: Poland VS Senegal, Otkrytiye Arena, Moscow.
○ 24th June 2018: Senegal VS Japan, Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg.
○ 28th June 2018: Senegal VS Colombia, Cosmos Arena, Samara.
● Past Record In World Cup :
Senegal had appeared only once in the FIFA World Cup, back in 2002, where they stunned the football world by reaching the quarter-finals and beat defending champions France on their way. If we consider other big tournaments, Senegal had finished as Runners up in 2002 African Cup of Nations.
● Manager’s Quotes :
Alisou said, “It’s an even group, but it’s also pretty difficult. Colombia are already accustomed to this type of tournament: let’s not forget they reached the quarter-finals in 2014! Poland are one of the top seven teams in the world. And then you’ve got Senegal and Japan. You might say that we’re both going to try and play a kind of spoiler role. Although the group does look very tight, when compared to others, we’ll aim to take advantage of any opportunities that arise with great determination, while playing our usual game”.
● Writer’s Take :
A tough challenge is awaiting ahead for Senegal. To finish in top 2 of their group, they have to win and tie at least 2 out of 3 games and to score more goal with a win in any one of the 3 teams. If it all happens correctly, they could finish the tournament as pre-Quarter finalists. Anything beyond that will be considered as a ‘Surprise’!