By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Nickname: Teranga Lions
FIFA Ranking: 18 in the World as of October (1st in Africa)
Coach: Aliou Cissé
This is the third FIFA World Cup for Senegal’s national football team. The Lions of Teranga have continued to progress since then, qualifying for two consecutive World Cup tournaments (2018, 2022). Senegal heads into the FIFA Qatar World Cup as African champions, having won the AFCON 2021 after defeating Egypt in a 4-2 penalty shootout.
The Teranga Lions are in Group A alongside host Qatar, Ecuador, Netherlands and Senegal. As the World Cup in Qatar approaches, the Teranga Lions winger Krepin Diatta craves an equally rewarding end to 2022.
“We won’t hide from the fact that we know we have a good team, with great players in each position,” the AS Monaco player says. “Now it is the World Cup, the biggest competition, so we won’t hide and we will give everything to play a great tournament, I think this is what we have to do.”
“There are so many good teams overall, and we will have to be ready from the start and do everything to make it out of this group”, the 23-year-old winger added. “We should not say that we are supposed to qualify from this group, it would be a mistake because we have to play and stay focused on it, and I think that if we do that then we have a chance to qualify.”
Key Players: Sadio Mane & Ismaila Sarr
The continent of Africa and Senegalese fans held their breaths in disbelief after the participation of Sadio Mane almost ended. The player limped off injured in the game against Werder Bremen and fears of him not participating was rive but despite that, Coach Aliou Cisse has selected the player for the global showpiece event. The prolific forward, who has scored 34 times in a Senegal shirt is widely considered one of the greatest African players of his time.
“We will do all in our power to ensure we can recover Mane in time to play,” Cisse added. “The players chosen correspond with our vision and philosophy. They are competitors of a high level,” said Cisse, who had his contract as coach extended by a further two years on Thursday.
With Sadio Mane possibly not starting the first two games for the side, the burden now shifts to Ismaila Sarr, with the country hoping he can replicate his fine form with his English championship side, Watford. He has six goals plus four assists in 16 matches played so far this season.
Ismaila Sarr is a very versatile player who can play almost all the positions above the defensive line, from left midfielder to right forward. He is expected to play a more prominent attacking role in the absence of Mane and is also one of Senegal’s main set-piece takers.
El Tactico to lead his flocks in Qatar
Nicknamed El Tactico by Senegal President Macky Sall, Cisse has been involved in every one of Senegal’s major achievements in the international arena. He captained the Lions of Teranga in Korea/Japan in 2002, coached the team in Russia in 2018, and led them to their first continental title at the 2021 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
It comes as no surprise, then, that Cisse will be leading his national team on their Qatari adventure. Cisse likes his side to play a pragmatic game and believes a solid defence is a key to success. Even when his side is on top, he is wary of them being exposed.
“The coach is a real leader of men. We are his troops,” said Senegal defender Abdou Diallo, heaping praise on Cisse, who calls his players his “boys”. As Diallo went on to explain, that proximity is the bedrock of Aliou’s philosophy. “The fact that he was an international and the captain as well gives him credibility,” said Diallo. “We drink in every word he has to say.”
Senegal v The Netherlands on November 21
Qatar v Senegal on November 25
Senegal v Ecuador on November 29
Teranga Lions squad
Goalkeepers: Seny Dieng, Alfred Gomis, Edouard Mendy.
Defenders: Fode Ballo-Toure, Pape Abdou Cisse, Abdou Diallo, Ismail Jakobs, Kalidou Koulibaly, Formose Mendy, Youssouf Sabaly.
Midfielders: Pathe Ciss, Krepin Diatta, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Pape Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mamadou Loum Ndiaye, Nampalys Mendy, Moustapha Name, Pape Matar Sarr.
Forwards: Boulaye Dia, Famara Diedhiou, Bamba Dieng, Nicolas Jackson, Sadio Mane, Iliman Ndiaye, Ismaila Sarr.