Senegal will play their second World Cup in their history, as the African team returns to the elite 16 years after becoming the sensation of the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea. Back then they managed to sneak into the eight best after getting out of the group stage – at the expense of the more-fancied Uruguay and France – before defeating Sweden thanks to a golden goal. They then fell to Turkey in the quarter finals by the same method.
In the qualifying round for Russia, they put in some strong performances and asserted themselves as the top side over South Africa, Cape Verde and Burkina Faso. Their safe passage was sealed with a game remaining without losing a single match.
If many sub-Saharan teams stand out for their physical condition, this Senegalese generation takes full advantage of the strength and power of its players. From Napoli centre-half Koulibaly, to midfielders like Kouyaté and Gueye, and through to strikers like Keita Baldé, who was actually born in Spain. Their power will be used to the full.
Senegal normally line up with a 4-3-3 formation in which the three across the middle put much of their focus on the defensive responsibilities. However, their style of play also offers up opportunities for the midfield to join up play with the striking trio. On the wings the team looks to always deploy speed and in the opposition area they aim to have a target man, although someone who links pay and not only scores goals.
|DOB: 24/03/1976||Preferred system: 4-3-3|
|Matches: 24||W/D/L: 16/5/3|
Aliou Cissé doesn’t have much experience on the bench but despite this has taken Senegal to a World Cup after a 16-year absence. He began his managerial career as assistant to the U-23 national team in 2012, then took charge of them a year later. In 2015 he made the jump to the senior team and guided them through the complicated qualifying phase in Africa. At the age of 41 Cissé has the opportunity to make a real name for himself from the other side of the white line.
Prior to his relatively new role in management, Cissé had a long and successful career as a footballer in Europe. He started at Lille in 1994, and before hanging up his boots in 2009, had notched up over 150 appearances for teams that included PSG and Montpellier in Ligue 1 as well as Birmingham and Portsmouth in the Premier League. His best moment as a player, however, came when he captained his country in that epic 2002 World Cup run.
Sadio Mané is the standout name in this Senegalese team. The Liverpool striker has developed over the past year to be one of the most dangerous in the Premier League, using his natural pace, dribbling skills and prolific scoring ability, a potential that was identified by Southampton after his stunning 31 goals in 63 games for Salzburg.
Step by step he has taken his place amongst the elite and Jürgen Klopp is getting the best out of him at Anfield where he has been part of the hottest attacking force in the Uefa Champions League 2017/18.
|DOB: 10/04/1992||Age: 25||Position: Midfielder||Club: Liverpool|
|Height: 175 cm||Weight: 69 kg||Caps: 46||Goals: 13|
Pitching in 14 goals in 49 games since making his senior international debut for Senegal in 2012, Mané now has a chance to prove his worth in the tournament that every footballer dreams of playing.