Reigning African Cup of Nations champions Senegal travel to the 2022 World Cup with the expectations of an entire continent on their shoulders. The Lions of Teranga are being promoted as the dark horses of the tournament. The team aims to improve on its performance from 2002, where it reached the quarterfinals.
Aliou Cissé, the current head coach, captained his country in South Korea and Japan. He hopes to instill those fond memories in his current group of top talent.
The African team shocked the world with a 1-0 win over defending champions France in the opening match of 2002. Senegal ultimately lost to Turkey, ending their dream run.
Twenty years later, Cissé travels to the World Cup with a team of world-class players who carry the expectations of an entire continent. However, they must be cautious after a disappointing outing in Russia in 2018, where they crashed out in the group stage. Senegal and Japan had identical records, but Cissé’s team was eliminated due to the fair play rule as they had more yellow cards than their counterparts.
Senegal beat Egypt on penalties in a two-leg tiebreak, recovering from a 1-0 deficit in the first leg. after his then Liverpool colleague Mohamed Salah missed his penalty afterwards. Salah had been targeted by lasers from the stands. FIFA later fined the Senegal Football Federation for crowd disorder. All this happened just a few weeks after Senegal defeated Egypt in their first African Championship.
Senegal arrives confident at the 2022 World Cup, but Mané raises questions
In addition to the aforementioned Mané, there are two outstanding players and world leaders: the Chelsea duo Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy.
AFCON Young Player of the Year Pape Matar is barely featured at Tottenham but will be looking to turn heads alongside Watford’s Ismaila Sarr. Everton and Nottingham Forest’s Idrissa Gana Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyate are not the players who can light up a game in midfield, but Senegal will be hoping they can play the supporting role to perfection.
Leicester City’s Namplys Medy is also expected to feature in the Senegal line-up in a 4-3-3 formation. Watch out for Salernitana’s Boulaye Dia, who has already scored five goals in 12 games (as of press time) in Serie A. The 25-year-old on loan from Villarreal has the pace and tricks to annoy defenders during the fast time trial of the Lions. attacks
While Papa Bouba Diop may have scored three goals in 2002, including arguably the greatest in Senegal’s football history in victory over France, El-Hadji Diouf is perhaps the country’s greatest cult hero.
Diouf played for several Premier League teams. For example, he represented Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers even when he was not in top form. Instead, the striker made headlines with his ‘bad boy’ behaviour. Diouf rarely saw eye to eye with Steven Gerrard on Merseyside. Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher once called his former teammate the worst Liverpool number 9 of all time. Unsurprisingly, that did not go down well with the Senegalese.
Mané, however, considers Diouf one of his heroes.
what to expect
Senegal faces the hosts, Qatar, as well as Ecuador and the Netherlands. Most expect Senegal to drop out of the group. The clash with the Netherlands should determine who ends up on top. So that goes a long way in deciding who is likely to face England in the round of 16. Or, if not England, the other unlikely Group B winner.
The Group A runner-up, the Senegal group, faces the winner of Group B. That group has England, the United States, Wales and Iran. If it’s England, the Senegal team has the ability to beat England on their day. After that, France is the likely opposition according to pundits’ predictions.
If Senegal finish first in their group, they are likely to face either the USA or Wales. Beating either of those two teams sets up a potential date with Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the quarterfinals.
Hipster Predictions: Senegal finish second in their group. They then beat England in the round of 16 and reach the quarter-finals where they will face France. Twenty years after that famous victory in Seoul, Senegal defeats the defending champions, France. They reach the semi-finals as the first African team to go that far.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Sebastian Frej