Senegal have returned to the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 16 years; their last campaign at the 2002 South Korea/Japan World Cup. Despite it being their tournament debut, Senegal went on an exceptional run; being knocked out by Turkey in the Quarter-Finals in extra-time.
The nation kicked off their 2002 World cup with a 1-0 victory over then-holders France, Papa Bouba Diop scoring the only goal and kickstarting his first of three World Cup goals. Diop currently stands as Senegal’s top scorer at World Cups but that could change this year with their squad including the likes of Sadio Mane, Keita Balde and Moussa Sow, who are all competent goal scorers.
Senegal are currently ranked 28th in the FIFA men’s rankings, the second highest African nation, only 14th placed Tunisia better them. Senegal all but secured their place at the 2018 World Cup after successfully appealing against a refereeing decision; leading to the replaying of a game against South Africa. Senegal had a good run in the 2017 African Cup of Nations, being knocked out in the Quarter-Finals by Cameroon who eventually went on to win the trophy; beating Egypt in the final.
This time round, Senegal are placed in a group with Poland, Japan and Colombia in Group H. The group is arguably the most competitively balanced; with each team in with a shout of qualifying to the knockout rounds. Senegal are third favourites for the group but have only lost once since their defeat to Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations and have some star talent in their 23-man squad.
The best of their squad is Liverpool winger Sadio Mane who has had an impressive season with the Merseyside club, scoring 10 goals and assisting 7 in just 29 appearances. Mane also played and scored in the Champions League Final in Kiev but couldn’t prevent Liverpool from losing to Real Madrid. Another key player is Bursaspor forward Moussa Sow. The player is the third most capped player in Senegal’s team and is their current top scorer in the squad. Senegal’s most capped player is Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye and at just 28-years-old, the midfielder is an integral part of Senegal’s success.
Senegal could reach the later rounds of the tournament with the team they have. Their defence is strong with the inclusion of Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly; who has had an exceptional season with the Italian team. Their midfield is bolstered with Everton’s Gueye, West Ham’s Kouyate and Wolves’ N’Diaye. Finally, their attacking line-up has the likes of Liverpool’s Mane, Monaco’s Balde and Stoke City’s Mame Biram Diouf.
Overall, Senegal have an exciting squad with plenty of young, hungry talent eager to perform at the World Cup. However, should Senegal qualify from the group stage, they are likely to face either Belgium or England in the round of 16; which could prove difficult for the African nation.