Assessing The Chances Of Senegal In The World Cup

C/T: FIFA.com/ AFP
The Teranga Lions of Senegal has booked its place at the 2018 World Cup to be staged in Russia after its long years of absence since 2002. Senegal under their manager, Aliou Cisse has found a new lease of life. On the African stage, their best performance ever was a runners up finish during the 2002 AFCON where they lost to Cameroon. Senegal were also very impressive during the qualifying rounds for the World Cup as they won five and drew one of the six games played. They came out unscathed in a group which featured AFCON 2013 finalists, Burkina Faso as well as Cape Verde Islands and South Africa. A flashpoint of Senegal’s qualification was the game against South Africa where due to manipulation by Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey, the game in which Senegal lost by 2-1 under bizarre circumstances was replayed. Senegal went on to win the replay. Joseph Lamptey was subsequently given a lifetime ban.

C/T: FIFA.com/ AFP
C/T: FIFA.com/ AFP

COACH AND PLAYING STYLE

Coached by former captain Aliou Cisse, Senegal has been taken out of the dark shackles of football to become a very fearsome physical and attacking side. Aliou Cisse has gathered years of experience as a footballer as he played for Losc Lille, PSG, Sedan, Montpellier, Birmingham City, Portsmouth and Nimes and further captained the Teranga Lions during their maiden world cup appearance in 2002.
He has galvanized his men into delivering some wonderful football. The Senegalese are a very physical team with incredible endurance and they play to their strengths. A fluid 4-3-3 formation ensures that they utilize the pace and trickery of Mane upfront whiles a midfield trio of Gueye, N’diaye and Kouyate ensures that they outrun opposing midfielders. With Kalidou Koulibaly controlling the defence, Aliou Cisse has got a fantastically balanced side who will definitely look to cause major upsets in the tournament.

FORM

Heading into the world cup, Senegal is ranked 27th in the latest FIFA rankings. Senegal played out a frustrating 1 all draw game with Uzbekistan. Senegal failed to utilize most of the chances they created during the game. They were shockingly wasteful. In their next friendly game against Bosnia, both teams failed to hit the back of the net and hence settled for a goalless draw. Senegal also drew 0-0 with Luxembourg raising genuine concern about their potency in front of goal. In their last friendly game, Senegal took the lead but slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Croatia. Senegal has been unimpressive in their displays during the friendlies so far but these games are not indicative of one’s true strength as a team.

THE BIG ONE

Aliou Cisse, the fiercely intelligent and cultured dreadlocked individual has not minced words about his expectations as a local coach. He is one who intends to change the status quo. He said “This is a great generation. What we are changing is the mindset. It is not just about playing a pass or some technical skill. It is about raising the whole level of African football. That’s our objective.

HISTORY IN THE WORLD CUP

The Teranga Lions roared very loudly during their maiden appearance at the world cup. They stunned the footballing world when they defied all odds to defeat the then defending champions France in their opening world cup game by a solitary goal to nil. A 1-1 draw with Denmark preceded an exciting 3-3 draw with Uruguay. With 5 points, Senegal booked their place in the round of 16 where they came from a goal down to defeat Sweden by 2 goals to 1. That sealed their progress to the quarter finals where they were eliminated Turkey in extra time via the golden goal rule.
KEY PLAYERS
The Senegalese on everyone’s lips heading into this world cup season is none other than Sadio Mane. Mane is blessed with incredible acceleration and an ability to dribble pass his opponents. There are also the likes of Napoli’s stalwart ball playing defender, Kalidou Koulibaly as well as Monaco’s Diao Keita Balde.

OPPONENTS AND PREDICTIONS

Senegal will begin their quest for world cup glory on the 19th of June when they take on Poland. Poland striker Robert Lewandowski is definitely the player the Senegalese has to watch out for as he has a big influence Poland’s playing style. We expect Koulibaly to neutralize the threat of Koulibaly. Senegal’s front three will also have to go through a rock in Poland’s defence. Kamil Gilik, dubbed by the French media as “the rock” has built a reputation for himself as a rugged defender with an ability of scoring incredible goals. Grzegorz Krychowiak is also one to look out for in the Poland setup. He expertly closes down space in front of the defense and breaks up opposition attacks with ease.
Though a move to French money bags PSG backfired, Krychowiak still offers a lot to this Poland side. Senegal can find solace in the fact that after Nawalka switched to a 3 man defense from the back 4, Poland has not really been impressive. Poland’s over reliance on Lewandowski will also cost them as it is evident that Lewandowski is Poland’s reference for their style. We expect Senegal to nullify Lewandowski’s treats and carry the day.
Next up is Japan. In May 2018, Japan parted ways with coach Vahid Halilhodzic and appointed Akira Nishino. Vahid’s defensive style and fall out with players of the national team were the justifications given by the JFA for his sacking. Nishino promised a more attacking way of playing and with players like Kagawa, Okazaki and Honda, Japan are poised to give a good account of themselves. This is tricky but Senegal are the favorites to win this game.
Senegal’s final game is against Colombia. Colombia’s attacking approach to the game is very difficult to deal with and with players like James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca Senegal will have to be at their best to avoid a defeat.
A closer look at this group makes it very difficult to predict but we expect Colombia and Senegal to pull through. Senegal are also expected to go past the quarter final stage which they achieved in 2002 and with a rich technical bench consisting of Tony Sylva, Omar Daf and Lamine Diatta who are all former players with so much experience in the game, Senegal must be really looked out for. This world cup could after all present itself as the perfect forest the long starved Teranga Lions needs to nourish itself.
Baiden Gideon
Follow on twitter@kwabaid
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