Today we profile, in reverse alphabetical order, the ninth team of the 32 teams which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—Senegal.
The Lions of Teranga are participating in their third World Cup ever. They made it to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup and exited in the Group Stage in 2018. Senegal are the current (2021) Africa Cup of Nations champions where they defeated Egypt on penalties in the final. Paired up with Egypt again for World Cup qualification the teams both won their matches at home and thus penalties were again needed, after the second game, Senegal won a second time.
Placed in Group A with hosts Qatar, the Netherlands, and Ecuador, the Senegalese believe they are well-placed to advance at the expense of the hosts and the South Americans, and most likely come in second to the Dutch. Though the Qataris will be playing at home and for pride and the Ecuadoreans are one of the most improved sides coming to this World Cup, the Dutch are strong and likely ready for another good run.
The issue, though, is that this Senegal team is particularly strong having internationally recognized star players at all positions, so they should be competing for the top spot. Expect them to advance and give all group opponents a hard time. If they progress a match-up with England, where nine of Senegal’s players ply their trade, is most likely and that should be one of the matches of the tourney.
Senegal has been continuously inhabited since the Lower Paleolithic era. The nation is the westernmost country on the African continent and encompasses an area of 76,000 square miles of mostly sandy to grassy plains with a tropical climate having a dry season and a rainy season and temperatures ranging from the mid-60sF to the mid-80sF. The dry season is dominated by the harmattan winds, and the nation is expected to be one of the most climatically and environmentally affected by global warming with estimates of temperature rises of between 3-7 degrees F, much less rainfall than customary, and an above average rise in coastal waters.
Senegal is a unitary presidential republic established in 1958 and over the succeeding five years, they severed colonial ties with France and the UK. The country’s official language is French but many national languages are in use. The Senegalese are 39.7% Wolof, 27.5% Fula and 16% Serer with other minor ethnic groups comprising the rest of the 17M population, of which 2.7M live in the capital and largest city Dakar. Their GDP is $66B, their Human Development Index score is 0.512 (low), they are 97% Muslim, and their most distinctive cultural heritage revolves around oral storytelling by troubadour equivalents called girots, their music (specially mbalax and Njuup).
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers—Bingourou Kamara (Charleroi), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), and Alioune Badara Faty (Casa Sports); Defenders—Saliou Ciss (Nancy), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Pape Abou Cisse (Olympiacos), Fode Ballo-Toure (Milan), Abdoulaye Seck (Antwerp), Bouna Sarr (Bayern Munich), Youssouf Sabaly (Real Betis), and Abdou Diallo (PSG); Midfielders—Idrissa Gueye (PSG), Papy Mendy (Leicester), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace), Pape Gueye (Marseille), Pape Matar Sarr (Metz), Mamadou Loum (Alaves), and Moustapha Name (Paris); Strikers—Keita Balde (Cagliari), Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), Boulaye Dia (Villarreal), Habib Diallo (Strasbourg), Bamba Dieng (Marseille), Ismaila Sarr (Watford), Mame Thiam (Kayserispor), and Famara Diedhiou (Alanyaspor).
Path to Qatar
Senegal were a seeded team in CAF Qualifiers and were placed in Group H with Togo, Namibia, and Congo. With such weak opposition, Senegal breezed through with five wins one tie, and a +11-goal differential when all other teams were in negative numbers. The ten group winners met in a home and away sequence to decide which five teams qualified for Qatar. Senegal defeated Egypt on penalties to progress.
Coach Aliou Cisse has opted for Senegal to play a 4-3-2-1 with a fearsome defensive line marshaled by team captain Kalidou Koulibaly, and a world-class keeper in Edouard Mendy. Their midfield, composed mostly of defensive mids, forms a tough defensive block with their vaunted rear guard. Nevertheless, that same midfield crew is equally adept at becoming a launching pad for the likes of left-wing striker Sadio Mane, center forward Boulaye Dia, or right-wing striker Ismaila Sarr. Left wingback Saliou Ciss is also an offensive threat as he usually plays up-field, linking with Mane, while having his defensive responsibilities covered by midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate. Look for this team’s experience and pace to translate into a competitive and entertaining futebol in Qatar.
Mane on offense, Kouyate in midfield, Koulibaly on defense, Mendy under the posts. Does that not sound like the frame an all-star team could drape its hopes on? Sadio Mane was voted the African Player of the Year 2022 and the Senegalese team the African Team of the Year 2022.
Group and Tourney Prospects
The Senegalese fancy their chances to progress from Group B and barring some unforeseen occurrence or the coming to fruition of a long-shot performance by hosts Qatar or up-and-coming Ecuador, expect Mane and company to move on with the Dutch. Of course, the Netherlands have not been in the form Senegal has displayed these past two years and the place of progression might be contested. Though Dutch can play very well or can have a mediocre showing with equal ease, if they bring their A-game the Senegalese will have their hands full for first place—but they should still progress.
Photo: Sadio Mane – Shutterstock ID: 1450812338 – by moshen nabil