To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This is the preview for Group A's Senegal.
Senegal World Cup 2022 Preview
World Cup Appearances: Third
Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2002)
How They Got Here: The hard way. Senegal stormed through the group-stage round of CAF qualifying with an undefeated record, but then it was Mohamed Salah's Egypt in the playoffs.
Coach: Aliou Cissé (Senegalese)
Strongest XI: (4-3-3) Édouard Mendy; Saliou Ciss, Kalidou Koulibaly, Abdou Diallo, Youssouf Sabaly; Idrissa Gueye, Nampalys Mendy, Cheikhou Kouyaté; Ismaïla Sarr, Famara Diédhiou, Sadio Mané
Injuries: Bouna Sarr (knee), Sadio Mané (tendon)
What’s To Like: This is Africa's best team, as evidenced by its 2021 AFCON title and WCQ playoff victory (both over Africa's second-best team, Egypt). Aliou Cissé has been at the helm for seven years, and he's built around a sensational core formed by Mendy, Koulibaly, Gueye, Kouyaté and Mané.
If you don't count July's COSAFA Cup (which wasn't contested by the nation's A team), you have to go back to October 2020 for the last time any side managed to score more than a single goal on Senegal. Nothing comes easily against this defense and midfield, while Mané — Senegal's all-time leading scorer — can be relied on to deliver in the biggest moments. The 30-year-old has treated the Bundesliga the same way he treated the Premier League since joining Bayern Munich from Liverpool.
UPDATE: Sadio Mané is out of the tournament. It's over.
What’s Not To Like: Between the pandemic, AFCON qualifying, AFCON and CAF WCQ, the Lions of Teranga have hardly had a chance to test themselves against opponents from outside Africa over the last few years. But there's no easing into the World Cup as they'll open against the Netherlands at Al Thumama Stadium on Nov. 21.
There's also an over reliance on goals from Mané in attack. The striker position remains problematic with Alanyaspor's Diédhiou and Salernitana's Boulaye Dia battling for minutes.
X-Factor: Ismaïla Sarr. The 24-year-old winger has yo-yoed between the Premier League and Championship with Watford, but he's coming into his own as one of the Hornets' most important attackers. He'll be on the opposite wing of Mané, receiving less attention, so this could be his big international breakthrough.
Best Hair: Sadio Mané
Most Likely To Fuck It All Up: Nampalys Mendy emerged as the team's starting defensive midfielder, but he's fallen out of favor at Leicester City and is hardly getting any minutes.
What Will Make This A Good World Cup: After failing to make the last 16 despite earning four points in Russia (Japan went through on fair play points!), a trip to the knockout rounds, given the draw, is now expected.
Bonus Prediction: Some British commentator questions Senegal's "tactical knowledge" when they have one the most well-drilled units in the world.