After topping their group with relative ease, England’s World Cup campaign really gets serious as the knockout stages begin with a clash against Senegal.
As round-of-16 ties go, it’s one that the Three Lions will be happy with but they will do well not to underestimate a side that has quietly impressed in Qatar so far.
With that in mind, Metro Sport breaks down everything you need to know and more about the Senegal football team:
Their journey so far:
Senegal arrived in Qatar with high hopes but their campaign took a huge blow before a ball was even kicked, when star player and captain Sadio Mane was ruled out on the eve of the tournament with a tendom injury – despite the best attempts of witch doctors to heal him.
His absence was felt in their opening match against the Netherlands but they still performed well and looked set to earn a point before two late howlers from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy saw them lose 2-0.
They bounced back well though, easily dispatching hosts Qatar 3-1 in their next game to set up a winner takes all clash with Ecuador, which, as you can probably guess, they won.
Goals from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr and Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly were just enough to edge the South American side 2-1 and secure second-place in Group A behind the Dutch.
World Cup history:
This is only Senegal’s third World Cup finals after 2002 and 2018.
Twenty years ago they famously beat reigning champions France on their finals debut, going on to reach the quarter-finals, but fours years ago in Russia they were unlucky to exit at the group stage by virtue of picking up more yellow cards than Japan.
That doesn’t make them sound so threatening, but their recent continental success does, with an Africa Cup of Nations triumph earlier this year following on from finishing runners-up just three years ago.
The Manager: Aliou Cisse
Aliou Cisse is a national hero in Senegal, though English fans may only know the former defender for his time at Birmingham City and Portsmouth.
He was the man who captained his country to the 2002 World Cup and became the manager of the Lions of Teranga in 2015, overseeing their aforementioned success.
Known for his incredible leadership skills, expect plenty of passion from the sidelines.
Star Player: Kalidou Koulibaly
With no Mane, the captain’s armband has fallen to Koulibaly who remains an integral part of his national side despite an underwhelming season so far with Chelsea.
The commanding centre-back will be a menace to the likes of Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford and will be a huge threat at set-pieces have scored a quality volley from a free-kick situation against Ecuador.
Man for man, England’s team is far superior to that of Senegal’s and as such there are several areas that could be exploited.
However, one unexpected boost for Gareth Southgate will be the poor form of the usually reliable Mendy, who has endured a tricky time at Chelsea over the past year.
The errors against the Netherlands prove that the keeper’s club form has carried over to the international stage, so Kane and co. may be well advised to take some pot shots at the 30-year-old in the hopes that one may lead to a howler.
How they’ll line-up:
In bigger games, Cisse deploys a 4-3-3 formation with three defensive midfielders at the heart of his team, with quick and dynamic forwards looking to counter where they can.
However, their midfield lacks a lot of experience with veterans Idrissa Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyate out of the England clash due to suspension and injury respectively.
He’ll be back for the quarter-finals should Senegal beat the Three Lions on Sunday, with the winner set to face either France or Poland.
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