Senegal is back at the FIFA World Cup after a sixteen-year draught, and the Lions of Teranga will play in the Group H alongside Poland, Colombia, and Japan. They will start the campaign against Poland at Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 19th, 2018, while five days later Senegal will face Japan at Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg. Their last game of the group phase is set for June 28th, 2018, when the Lions of Teranga meet Colombia at Samara Arena in Samara.
For the second time in their history the Senegal national football team made it to the FIFA World Cup, and in South Korea and Japan 2002, the Lions of Teranga surprisingly reached the Quarter-Finals, eventually losing to Turkey 1-0 after a golden goal in the extra-time. This time in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia the Lions will have a tough task in the group stage against some tricky opponents, but they also have a strong team, and it will be interesting to watch their matches this summer.
Winner: +20000 at Bet365 Sportsbook
To Reach Semi-Finals: +1400
To Reach Quarter-Finals: +500
Group Qualifying Yes/No: +137/-188
Group Phase Matches:
The leader of this Senegal team and arguably the biggest star is a 26-year old forward Sadio Mane (51 caps, 14 goals) who’s having a great season with Liverpool in the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League, scoring 19 goals in 41 appearances along with nine dishes for his teammates. Besides Mane, Senegal possesses plenty of talent at the frontline, as the 32-year old Moussa Sow (50 caps, 19 goals), the 28-year old Diafra Sakho (9 caps, 3 goals), and a 30-year old Mame Biram Diouf (46 caps, 10 goals) are all good players, while the 23-year old Keita Balde (16 caps, 3 goals) is one of the most gifted wingers in the world at the moment.
The captain of this generation is a 28-year old versatile midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate (46 caps, 2 goals) who’s one of the key players in Senegal’s midfield, along with his coeval Idrissa Gueye (58 caps, 1 goal). At the back, the main guy is the 26-year old centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly (23 caps) from Napoli, and his presence on the field is essential for the Lions of Teranga, while the 28-year old vice-captain Kara Mbodji (51 caps, 5 goals) is another important player at Senegal’s defensive line.
The head coach Aliou Cisse was a captain of the Senegal team who made it to the Quarter-Finals in 2002, and his experience could be a big factor for this generation of players. Cisse prefers an attacking 4-3-3 formation with two defensive-minded midfielders, mostly looking to get the best out of his squad.
The road to 2018 World Cup: Senegal qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after finishing at the top of the African section qualifying Group D table with 14 points, a 4-2-0 record, and a goal difference of 10:3, well ahead of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, and South Africa, while four out of their six games had less than three goals in the total. The Lions of Teranga had an identical 2-1-0 record at home and on the road, keeping their net intact four times in the process.
Gains: Senegal is a physically very strong team with some quick players among the squad, and these are advantages they will certainly use against Japan, while it will be interesting to see them in the action against Poland and Colombia. Likewise, Senegal has a great front line with Sadio Mane onwards who’s a world-class player.
Shortcomings: The Lions of Teranga’s technique skills are quite limited, and they certainly lack creativity in their midfield, which is sometimes a big issue against well-organized opponents. Another problem could be a short bench if some of the key players struggle with injuries, particularly defenders and midfielders.
Players to Watch: Sadio Mane, Keita Balde, Kalidou Koulibaly
Top Goalscorer: Sadio Mane +8000, Keita Balde +15000, Diafra Sakho +15000, Moussa Sow +15000
MY PICK: Senegal vs. Japan Both Teams to Score YES (-110) – this will be a clash of two different styles, and I think it could bring some goals on both sides of the pitch. Senegal will dominate through a physical play, but Japan is a tactically well-prepared team who knows how to take advantage of its chances. Also, a potential defeat here could be fatal for both Senegal and Japan.
ADDITIONAL PICK: Senegal to Reach the Round of 16 (+137) – it is going to be a difficult job to finish in the top two, as Poland and Colombia are both very strong teams with some exceptional individuals among the squad, but Senegal was great in the qualifying phase, and if they bring their best form to Russia, nothing is impossible.
Against the Odds: Senegal to Reach the Semi-Finals (+1400) – if the Lions of Teranga manage to qualify from the group stage, they will probably meet England or Belgium in the second round, while in the Quarter-Finals they could meet Brazil or Germany, so they will need a lot of luck and courage to get this far.