Senegal World Cup squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

PROFILE: With the tournament only days away we take an in-depth look at all 32 teams in Russia

Liam Twomey
Monday 11 June 2018 10:48 BST
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It has taken 16 years for Senegal to make their way back to the stage where they shocked the footballing world in 2002, beating France and Sweden en route to becoming only the second African nation to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

That team was powered by an imposing midfield and garnished with the speed and sparkling skill of an emerging El Hadji Diouf on the wing. Senegal’s class of 2018 are constructed along the same lines, but with Everton destroyer Idrissa Gueye anchoring the middle and Liverpool star Sadio Mane in the Diouf role, they arguably boast even better headline talent.

Aliou Cisse, an influential midfield presence in the 2002 side, is now the coach and has arranged his best players in a 4-3-3 structure that makes sense. Questions persist about his tactical acumen, though, particularly in the attacking half of the pitch, where exciting prospects Keita Balde, M’Baye Niang and Ismaila Sarr are yet to replicate the flashes of promise shown at club level.

Nevertheless, a reasonable draw has given Senegal hope that this exciting generation could match the achievement of 2002, and once again be the best that Africa has to offer at a World Cup.

Who do they play?

Senegal vs Poland – 16:00, Tuesday 19 June
Senegal vs Japan – 16:00, Sunday 24 June
Senegal vs Colombia – 15:00, Thursday 28 June

Key players

Sadio Mane: The man whose goal gave Liverpool a brief moment of hope in last month’s Champions League final, Mane has earned his status as Senegal’s primary attacking option. His ability to carry the ball with speed and dribble past defenders in transition will be crucial for a team that may struggle to create against massed defences and rely on counterattacking opportunities.

Sadio Mane is one of Senegal's stand-ouit players (Getty ) (Getty)

Idrissa Gueye: Despite performing a thankless task at the heart of a disjointed and disappointing Everton side this season, Gueye has established a reputation as one of the most formidable defensive midfielders in the Premier League. Senegal’s opponents will not enjoy battling for possession with him, Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham and Wolves loanee Alfred N’Diaye.

Kalidou Koulibaly: There is a reason why Napoli defender Koulibaly has been linked with a big-money transfer to half of Europe’s elite clubs. His unique blend of physical presence, athleticism and positional intelligence makes him one of the best central defenders around, as well as a huge threat from set-pieces. It is to Senegal’s great relief that he decided not to represent France instead.

The defender has been brilliant for Napoli (Getty)

One to watch

Keita Balde: The former Lazio winger has enjoyed a solid rather than spectacular first season at Monaco, registering eight goals and five assists in 23 Ligue 1 appearances, and has yet to hit the heights at international level. No one has any doubt about his prodigious talent, though, and with Mane likely to be the main focus of opposing defenders, he could find space he needs to shine in Russia.

Will Keita Balde be handed the chance to shine? (Getty Images)

How did they get here?

Senegal were convincing winners of a qualifying group that featured Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa, emerging unbeaten and victorious in four of their six matches.

Draws home and away against main rivals Burkina Faso left top spot in the balance at the halfway stage, but Cisse’s team finished strongly, winning their final three games to book an automatic spot in Russia. A sturdy defence marshalled by Koulibaly and shielded by Gueye performed strongly, conceding just three goals and keeping four clean sheets.

How will they do?

Group H offers no scalp on par with reigning world champions France in 2002, but Senegal have every reason to be optimistic of qualifying for the knockout stage. A fast start is crucial, particularly as a very dangerous Colombia side are their final group stage opponents.

If they do manage to finish in the top two, Senegal’s potent blend of defensive solidity and attacking pace could cause serious problems for even the best teams they could face in the knockout stage. Replicating that famous quarter-final run of Japan and South Korea is definitely not out of the question.

Odds of winning the tournament: 150/1

2018 Russia World Cup in numbers

Full squad

Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye, Abdoulaye Diallo, Alfred Gomis.

Defenders: Kara Mbodji, Kalidou Koulibaly, Moussa Wague, Saliou Ciss, Youssouf Sabaly, Lamine Gassama, Armand Traore, Salif Sane.

Midfielders: Pape Alioune Ndiaye, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Cheikh N'Doye.

Forwards: Sadio Mane, Diao Balde Keita, Ismaila Sarr, Diafra Sakho, Moussa Konate, Mame Biram Diouf, Mbaye Niang.

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