World Cup 2022: Why Senegal are ‘dangerous’ for England
It is the World Cup quarter-final everyone is talking about. Yet, there are significant hurdles to overcome first.
Both sides may face lower-ranked opposition in their last-16 ties today but this is a World Cup that has thrown up shock results. France must first overcome Poland, while England face African champions, Senegal.
They may sit 13 places lower than England in the FIFA world rankings, but Senegal have a squad packed full of talent, even without injured superstar, Sadio Mane.
“We know we will be favourites in terms of rankings but Senegal will be a very dangerous side,” said England manager, Gareth Southgate.
“We know many of their players who play in the Premier League and throughout Europe.”Senegal are the pinnacle of African football, ranking highest of all the teams on the continent and the current holders of the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
This is their third World Cup finals, having also qualified in 2002 when they reached the quarter-finals, and again in 2018 when they were knocked out in the group stages.
BBC Africa’s Babacar Diarra, said: “I think the players are inspired by the 2002 generation with the head coach being former Birmingham and Portsmouth midfielder, Aliou Cisse, the goalkeeper coach, Tony Sylva and other former players close to the team like Lamine Diatta and El Hadji Diouf.
“So after dedicating the win in the AFCON to their elders, and the victory against Ecuador to Papa Bouba Diop, the first-ever Senegalese goal scorer in a World Cup, exactly two years after he died, we can say the spirit of 2002 is inspiring this current team.
“The qualification for the round of 16 was celebrated on Tuesday for several hours after the game. Now, there is trust in the team despite Mane’s injury. Debates are going on about how to play against England and what could be their weak points.”
Senegal are a nation improving on the global stage with several players now featuring regularly in Europe’s top leagues, including the Premier League.
Chelsea duo, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr are among those who represent the ‘Lions of Teranga’, while Everton’s Idrissa Gueye will miss the game because of suspension.
Bayern Munich forward, Mane is also not playing. He was kept in Senegal’s squad despite being ruled out of the tournament with a leg injury.
“We know English people. They play strong and attack well. They have a great squad. But Senegal has a chance,” former Senegal international, Alassane N’Dour told BBC Sport Africa.
“A lot of Senegal players are in the Premier League or the Championship. We know about English football.
“We deserve to be here and to play this game. We have to make sure we don’t go there just to watch them play. We need to take our chance.”
• Culled from BBC Sport