Senegal have participated in just one FIFA World Cup tournament and that was way back in 2002 in Korea and Japan. The Teranga Lions had to wait 16 years before booking their place for a second appearance at the Mundial.
They will cross swords with Poland, Colombia and Japan in Group H, where they appear to be one of the sides to beat thanks to a plethora of foreign based players that make up the West African team.
The Senegalese government is bound and determined to motivate the team to success in Russia by providing all what the FA and technical staff have requested for ahead of the tournament. A $2 million budget has been approved for the trip as well as a basic bonus of $38,000 for each of the 23 players and each member of the technical staff.
Head coach Aliou Cisse
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The 42 -year-old former PSG and Portsmouth midfielder / defender played for Senegal national team between 1999 and 2005, and was the Lions’ captain at the 2002 World Cup. He never scored any goal for Senegal but won praise for his leadership qualities especially in settling dispute in the dressing room.
Immediately after hanging up his boots, he joined the team’s technical outfit as assistant coach of Senegal U-23 in 2012 before gaining promotion to become head coach of the same team a year later. He was able to groom a lot of local talent in Senegal and his progress earned him the top job of coach of the national senior team in March 2015 following the departure of Frenchman Alain Giresse.
Cisse led the team to the quarterfinals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon before clinching qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Although, deemed as inexperienced by the local media, pundits praise him for his closeness to the players, who mostly call him a friend and not a boss.
Cisse is the least paid coach among the 32 that are coming to the World Cup. He earns €200,000 ($233,000) per annum.
Senegal have produced a number of great players over the years but with nothing to show for it in terms of titles and trophies.
The country’s greatest achievement in football remains a quarterfinal feat at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, after pulling off a shock by defeating then defending champions France (1-0) in the tournament’s opener.
On continental level, the Teranga Lions reached their highest spot ever in 2002 when they finished as runners-up. They also boast of three fourth place finish in 1965, 1990 and 2006.
How They Qualified
Senegal had a bye to the second round of the qualifying where they defeated Madagascar 5-2 on aggregate, before progressing to the third round / group stage.
They were placed in Group D alongside Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa. The group saw controversies after a match between South Africa and Senegal, won by Bafana Bafana 2-1, was annulled and ordered to be replayed by FIFA after the Ghanaian referee who officiated the game was found guilty of malpractices and consequently handed a lifetime ban.
Senegal went on to defeat South Africa 4-1 home and away to claim their ticket to the World Cup after topping the group with 14 points. Burkina Faso finished second with nine points.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool Forward): The 26-year-old is currently Senegal’s No.1 player in terms of popularity and talent. Since joining Liverpool from Southampton in 2016, the former Metz player has become a household name in red half of Merseyside.
He was one of the main men that led the Reds to the 2018 UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid, scoring his side’s consolation.
Cheikhou Kouyaté (West Ham United Midfielder): The 28-year-old has been captain of the Teranga Lions for three years. He is cherished back home for his cool headedness and maturity in dealing with issues within the outfit. On the pitch, he is a clever organiser and distributor.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli Defender): The 26-year-old former Genk centre-back is currently hot in the transfer market due to his utility roles at the back and his pace. He would be one of the players coach Cisse would frequently be talking to at the World Cup, as the entire team count on him to keep the house safe at the back.
Diao Keita Baldé (Monaco Forward): Born in Spain, the former Lazio talisman opted for Senegal team in 2016, and has since become a vital player in the setup. After scoring 26 goals at Lazio across four seasons, he was snaffled by Monaco in 2017. He has already eight goals to his credit in 23 outings.
Mbaye Niang (Torino Forward): On loan from AC Milan at Torino, the 23-year-old French born did not want to play for Senegal, after representing France’s U-16, U-17 and U-21 teams. However, after facing difficulties in making the first team, he later accepted the Lions’ offer. His aerial and scoring abilities can be ignored by only few coaches.
Senegal appear to possess a number of talented and experienced players compared to the four other African representatives. The team’s initial objective is to progress from the group stage and then eye a repeat of their 2002 feat of reaching the quarterfinals.
Poland v Senegal: Poland have Robert Lewandowski, Senegal have Sadio Mané. The meeting is going to be a cracker as the White and Reds would try to impose a typical European play pattern while Aliou Cisse would want to counter with a strong midfield and pacy wingers. It is likely to end in a draw, however the goals on either side.
Japan v Senegal: Japan have been a difficult side for African teams both in official and friendly matches, because of their rich stamina and massive approach to the ball. However, the Teranga Lions have more exposed players and that could bail them out in a 2-1 scoreline.
Colombia v Senegal: Colombia appear to be the toughest side for Senegal in the group. The South Americans have been to the FIFA World Cup five times. Russia 2018 will be their sixth participation. They are currently ranked 16th best national team. However, Senegal need to stand their ground if they want to make a statement at the tournament. The scoreline could emerge at 3-1 for Colombia.