Manager: Aliou Cisse
Group: Group H
Other teams in group: Poland, Japan and Colombia.
Arguably, the best African team in Russia, Senegal can be expected to make life difficult for any team they meet.
The Senegalese are considered one the fastest of the 32 competing teams.
Omar Niasse of Everton is a notable absentee from their 23-strong squad.
The Squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes), Alfred Gomis (SPAL), Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya).
Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Kara Mbodii (Anderlecht), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Salif Sane (Hannover), Moussa Wague (Eupen).
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Alfred Ndiaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City), Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham City), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes).
Forwards: Keita Balde (Monaco), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mbaye Niang (Torino), Diafra Sakho (Rennes), Moussa Sow (Bursaspor).
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Senegal emphatically topped CAF (Confederation of African Football) qualifying group D that also featured Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa. Senegal won four of their six matches and remained unbeaten throughout the group.
Draws at home and away against main rivals Burkina Faso left the Senegalese on tenterhooks midway through the group, but Cisse’s men finished strongly, winning their final three games (including a replayed match with South Africa) to book an automatic spot in Russia – just the 2002 quarter-finalists second time to qualify. Senegal lost their away Group tie to South Africa but the original match was annulled and the Ghana referee banned for life by FIFA.
A powerful defence, well organised by Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and protected by defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye (Everton) performed strongly, conceding just three goals and keeping four clean sheets.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Sadio Mane: Scored Liverpool’s goal in the Champions League final and has expressed himself happy at Anfield despite transfer speculation from some of the world’s top clubs. Plays in the No. 10 role for Senegal for whom he has earned over 40 caps. A national hero, he has represented his country at the Olympic Games and in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Kalidou Koulibaly: Dual qualified Koulibaly was born in France of Senegalese parents, the Napoli central defender represented France at Under 20 level. Since declaring for Senegal in 2015, Koulibaly’s physical presence has been a major boost. The elegant Koulibaly’s attributes run far deeper than mere strength. He is acclaimed for his aerial prowess, anticipation, passing ability and versatility. He is capable of filling various roles across the back four or even as a defensive midfielder.
Cheikhou Kouyate: He might have endured a torrid season at the London Stadium with West Ham United, but Kouyate is the respected team captain of Senegal. Having missed a recent friendly against Croatia due to a minor knee injury, Kouyate returned to the Senegal side for their final pre-World Cup match. Senegal fans will be hoping that Kouyate can create from midfield as the Lions have been short of inventiveness in the middle third.
WHERE THEY ARE PLAYING AND STAYING
Monday June 18th – Poland (Otkrytie Arena, Moscow) 4 p.m.
Sunday June 24th – Japan (Central Stadium, Yekaterineburg) 4 p.m.
Thursday June 28th – Colombia (Samara Arena, Samara) 3 p.m.
The Senegalese footballers will train at Sputnik Stadium on the outskirts of Kaluga, a city in western Russia, situated about 180 kilometres from Moscow. The Sputnik sports complex was built specially for the World Cup. The use of the stadium will be handed over to the local FC Kaluga after the World Cup. The Senegalese hotel base is situated on the banks of the Oka River.
THREE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE TEAM
Current boss Aliou Cisse was captain and a key member of the Senegal team that reached the 2002 quarter-finals before losing to Turkey.
The team is nicknamed Les Lions de la Teranga (the Lions of Teranga).
Sadio Mane tends to score more regularly for Liverpool than he does for the national team.
THEIR RECENT FORM
After a run of four matches without a win (including a 0-0 draw with Luxembourg, and a 1-1 result against Uzbekistan), Senegal finalised their World Cup warm-up on 11th June by beating South Korea 2-0 in Austria, courtesy of an o.g. and a Konate penalty.
First game: Monday June 18th – Poland (Otkrytie Arena, Moscow), 4.00 p.m.