Three Hopes, One Fear: Senegal at the 2018 World Cup

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After sixteen long years Senegal is back in the World Cup. The side that captivated so many during their quixotic 2002 run took a bit of a long break from the competition before returning this year in Russia. With two of the hottest superstars in the game in Sadio Mane and Kalidou Koulilbaly their supporters will hope for a deep run in this year’s competition. But do they have the depth to do it? That’s what we will look in this edition of three hopes and one fear!

Hope #1: That Sadio Mane tears up the group.

The UEFA Champions League Final will certainly be on the minds of many players but perhaps no one more than Sadio Mane. Mane was a one-man wrecking crew for Liverpool after Mohamed Salah went off with an injury, scoring their only goal and very nearly getting a second in their 3-1 loss to Real Madrid. Players often say that what they look forward to the most erasing is a bad memory. He hasn’t scored since a goal in a 2-2 draw against Burkina Faso back in September so the World Cup seems like the perfect moment to let loose.

Hope #2: That Kalidou Koulilbaly can stop the Belgian and English attacks.

Senegal has always been known for their dynamic attacking but very rarely for their defensive work. Enter Kalidou Koulilbaly. Koulilbaly is perhaps better known for his exploits with Roma, where he helped lock out FC Barcelona in the Champions League this season. A two-time member of the Serie A Player, Koulilbaly has made a name for himself as a pros pro, someone who can make the decisive tackle but also knows how to organize his teammates and help them keep their composure. Senegal has a nice batch of defenders (Kara Mbodji of Anderlecht, Lamine Gassama of Alanyspor) but they don’t have that same level of experience that Koulilbaly does. He is an integral part of this side and will be an important key in their hopes of advancing.

Hope #3: That Moussa Sow still has something left in the tank.

There was a time when Moussa Sow was considered to be one of the top young strikers on the market, having impressed while playing with Fenerbahce. Trips to Al-Ahli didn’t exactly pan out so he went on loan last season with Bursaspor. which also really didn’t go according to plan. At 32, his options are rather limited but a good World Cup as Mane’s number two should help raise his value and possibly get him a better home.

The big fear: That they don’t have a quality goalkeeper to make the next step. 

What really seems to be holding Senegal back is their lack of a quality goalkeeper. The situation was so tough that Clement Diop of the Montreal Impact was given a call-up last November. Mr. Diop is currently the back-up for one of the worst sides in Major League Soccer.

As it stands Abdoulaye Diallo is the likely starter for The Lion of Teranga. His back-up is Khadim N’Diaye, who plays for Horoya AC in the Senegalese First Division. Again, not an ideal option. Senegal does have a good defensive structure and they have had a series of positive results including clean sheets against Luxembourg and Bosnia and Herzegovina. But Poland, Colombia, and Japan will be entirely different beasts.

Senegal will need a strong or at least serviceable performance from their goalkeepers if they are to go far in this tournament.

 

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