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Koulibaly: “When Mané speaks, Senegal listens”

Sadio Mané may not be at the World Cup with Senegal, but Kalidou Koulibaly says the forward is still contributing to their campaign

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations -  Semi Final - Burkina Faso v Senegal -  Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaounde, Cameroon - February 2, 2022 Senegal's Sadio Mane reacts REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo

Sadio Mané remains a key influence on Senegal’s World Cup campaign despite his absence, with Kalidou Koulibaly revealing the forward is in constant contact with the national team. The Bayern Munich forward was ruled out of Qatar 2022 after undergoing surgery for a leg injury sustained in a Bundesliga game with Werder Bremen on 8 November .

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It has been a cruel blow for player and country, with Mané’s penalty in their qualifying play-off against Egypt earlier this year having been decisive in taking Senegal to Qatar 2022. But despite his absence, Koulibaly says the forward is still a regular, virtual presence around the squad, helping to raise their game and keep them focused.

He’s always texting with us, always calling,” he stated. “[He is] keeping the mentality high for the team. He’s an important player for us. We know the importance that he has for the team and we hope he will continue [to stay in touch]. When he speaks, all of Senegal listens.”

Defeat in World Cup opener

Senegal came up short in their first match of the World Cup on Monday against the Netherlands, conceding two late goals in a 2-0 defeat. Ahead of Friday’s encounter with hosts Qatar in Group A, the Lions of Teranga are looking to get their campaign back on track, with Koulibaly stating they are stung by loss. “It is very difficult after a defeat to get your head around things,” he added. “It is a difficult pill to swallow. We’ve started off with a loss.”

Both concessions marked a tough game for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, with Senegal’s first-choice goalkeeper having endured a hit-and-miss campaign with Chelsea. Blues team-mate Koulibaly remains unconcerned over any fears of a dip in form however, adding: “We’re brothers in arms. He’s an important player for us. It’s normal to go through difficult periods, but I think we’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Edouard knows what he needs to do tomorrow, as do we. I don’t think we should be making a big deal about this. Everyone needs to be confident in our role; everyone needs to get stuck in. It is together that we are going to be able to overcome this hurdle. I am not worried.”