The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Senegal

Senegal National Team

Teranga Lions

The Lions of Teranga

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Senegal

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 4-2-0
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 28th
World Cup 2014 Finish – DNQ
Russia 2018 Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)
Formation – 4-3-3
Strengths – Dynamism, Counterattacking speed, squad depth
Weaknesses – Defensive focus can be shaky, Midfield strength can be a weakness when they crowd the middle
Major Threats – Sadio Mane, Moussa Sow, Cheikhou Kouyate

The Lions of Teranga have been absent from the World Cup since their special showing in 2002 but even though it’s been 16 years, this edition of Senegal’s team may be the most talented African side on display in Russia, they’ll hope to translate that talent into something tangible before all is said and done.
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Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

The FSF know they have a gifted squad, they also know that this is a very tricky group with dangerous customers from all over. They advanced out of the group phase against the odds in 2002 and the federation will expect more of the same this time too.


DEFENSE:

Coach Aliou Cisse was a fierce competitor for Senegal during his playing days. He was captain of the 2002 squad which turned out Senegal’s greatest generation, he played in defensive midfield and defense so he knows firsthand what is required from a defense at the global stage. Senegal has the manpower to be really difficult to play against, the main issue with the defense is the occasional fatal loss of focus, and a tendency to get pulled apart by sides who can pass the ball very quickly and decisively.
Cisse has played quite a few different formations and so the Lions can adapt based on who the opponent is. Whether it’s a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3 or even a 3-4-1-2, they’re hard to predict and can morph easily in games.

Kara Mbodji is the leader of the defense but since getting hurt some months back, his participation at the Mundial is a huge question mark. If he can’t play, it’s not a massive loss because Senegal’s depth is fantastic. Kalidou Koulibaly can lead the defense, Captain Cheikhou Kouyate can play there, and then Salif Sane makes up the rest of the potential starters in central defense. A safe guess would be that Koulibaly starts alongside Kouyate in the central defensive role. Though Kouyate can play in midfield, Senegal is so deep there that they can afford to drop the captain into the center of defense and not skip a beat. Koulibaly and Kouyate are two big, powerful, athletic center backs who are great with the ball at their feet and can start Senegal’s passing movements from deep.

In goal, Khadim Ndiaye will get the nod with Alfred Gomis and Abdoulaye Diallo backing him up.

MIDFIELD

The midfield is where Senegal’s underestimated strength lies, everyone will praise that attack with it’s big names but the midfield is the solid base that gives them the platform to dance. A bunch of selfless hard workers, including captain Cheikhou Kouyate, will not be outworked by any team at Russia 2018. They are a bunch of ball playing CMs who are hard tacklers with lungs and pace for days. The personification of the midfield is probably Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye, the perfect mix of tackling, energy, lungs, positional sense and the occasional goal. They present the perfect platform for Senegal’s more popular attackers to flourish while also presenting a wall for the defense.

Gueye will be joined by some combination of Alfred N’Diaye, Badou Ndiaye, Ismaila Sarr or Cheikh N’Doye. There’s no shortage of work among this lot. They’re all neat, shifty passers of the ball too and will be looking to get the ball to the attacking creators upfront.

Striker Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane

STRIKERS

Senegal’s attack is the spice of the team. They’re led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, a striker capable of wrecking a defense on his own when he’s on. Sadio Mane is often on which spells trouble for Senegal’s opponents. Mane will play to the left or right of Moussa Sow. Sow is the nominal center forward but in actual fact, he can switch positions seamlessly with Mane or Mame Biram Diouf.

Diouf and Sow are menacing but when Senegal truly want to pour on the pace and take the threat level to another plane, they can call on Diafra Sakho, Mbaye Niang, Moussa Konate or Keita Balde. All wickedly pacey forwards with excellent dribbling skills and hard-to-track movement. Guys like Oumar Niasse, Khouma Babacar and Opa Nguette might not even make the squad and that’s a testament to the depth of talent pouring out of Senegal these days.

The names are mostly known but the big issue for Coach Cisse will be whether they can be lethal in front of goal. Senegal’s strikers all have a rep for being a handful yet not quite being cold blooded enough when it comes to finishing, the type who need five chances to put one away. In a group where goals may be hard to come by, and goal difference will likely count, Senegal have to be locked in for all 90 minutes every game.

GAME by GAME (v Poland, v Japan, v Colombia)

*Keys to Poland game: Can Senegal keep Robert Lewandowski in check? Can Senegal cope with Poland’s physical game? Can the Senegalese attack put away the chances they create?
Prediction: Most will expect Poland to open the group with a win but Senegal match up well against the Europeans, the Teranga Lions should win this.

*Keys to Japan game: Can the Senegal defense maintain focus against Japan’s varied attack? Can the midfield impose its will against Japan? Can Senegal score enough goals?
Prediction: Japan are going to be a tough nut to crack and this should be a high scoring, entertaining game. A second straight win for the Senegalese should be the outcome.

*Keys to Colombia game: How will Senegal’s midfield cope with Colombia’s midfield class? Can the fullbacks handle Colombia’s threat from the wings? Can Senegal put away their chances?
Prediction: This is a great group and there should be six entertaining games and this particular one might be for the chance to top the table. Colombia should match up well with Senegal and hand the Lions a loss.

Senegal squad

Senegal 23 for the World Cup

Here’s the Senegalese Roster for Russia 2018
GOALKEEPERS (3): Khadim N’Diaye, Alfred Gomis, Abdoulaye Diallo

DEFENDERS (7): Lamine Gassama, Kalidou Koulibaly, Moussa Wague, Kara Mbodji, Salif Sane, Saliou Ciss, Youssouf Sabaly

MIDFIELDERS (6): Cheikhou Kouyate, Idrissa Gueye, Ismaila Sarr, Cheikh N’Doye, Badou Ndiaye, Alfred N’Diaye

FORWARDS (7): Sadio Mane, Moussa Sow, Mame Biram Diouf, Moussa Konate, Keita Balde, M’Baye Niang, Diafra Sakho

Piece by Tise Okuo, frequent Center Circle writer, a recovering fan of Arsenal FC and lover of football.

 

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About the author: Tise Okuo

 

Soccer nut. Arsenal fan, used to enduring hard times. Admirer of the purity of tiki-taka, total football, catenaccio, and any other system bold enough to be itself. In my spare time, I am a professional thinker. Engage with me on Google+.

 

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