Previous World Cup appearances: 2002, 2018
Best finish: Quarter-finals (2002)
World Cup record: W3 L2 D3
World Cup goals: 11
Biggest win: 1-0 v France (2002)
Player to watch: Sadio Mane
Group stage fixtures: Netherlands (November 21), Qatar (November 25), Ecuador (November 29)
Of Africa’s five representatives at the 2022 World Cup, Senegal is the least experienced.
The Teranga Lions have become the first African side to make it three consecutive times to the World Cup. It has been dramatic timing for them to win their first World Cup since 1991.
Senegal is one of only three teams from Africa to have reached the last eight of a World Cup, but they did it in their first appearance.
In 2002, they startled reigning World Champions France and reached the quarterfinals with a majority of victories.
Senegal was able to qualify for the World Cup twice in its history but has yet to qualify for three consecutive tournaments. They’ll have their first chance after 2022.
Disappointment in 2018
Coach Cisse has been with the Lions since their great 2002 adventure and has been the coach in their dugout for seven years now. With a disappointing 2018 behind them, they hope to see what Aliou can do on the field this year.
This became the first time Senegal had been eliminated from the World Cup based on fair play in Russia. They hope they will learn from this and return to winning in their second match against Panama.
The Chelsea center-back told Al Jazeera that the team would not make the same mistake again.
“In 2018, we didn’t have the best year, but having experienced some great players and a team going through testing times has enabled us to learn from our mistakes. This year in Qatar, we will use our experience as a learning opportunity for all players.”
Africa’s Best Hope
Just in the short time since they won the African Cup of Nations in January, they’ve shown they’re true contenders despite their late surge. The group features poor Malawi and struggling Zimbabwe should be easy beats.
Despite losing in the final, they were dominant during the knockout rounds. They demonstrated their brilliance by winning a penalty shootout, despite not having much margin for error.
Despite losing on home soil, Senegal’s first-ever taste of silverware gave them legitimacy and helped them cement their standing as the best team in Africa. It also helped set their sights on a deep run in Qatar.
“I think Senegal has a good chance at making it through the knockout stages,” African football expert Mark Gleeson told Al Jazeera. “I’m hopeful they’ll be the only African team to do so, but I want their first match against Switzerland to go their way.”
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Group A of the 2022 World Cup includes hosts Qatar and South America’s last automatic qualifier, Ecuador. They’reItaly joins them in their first-ever World Cup appearance and a difficult Netherlands team.
Koulibaly said that it would be tough, but the group is open. Senegal is currently ranked 8th in the world and has a great squad. They’re favorites to advance out of the group.
“Qatar (took) a great step in advancing their soccer capabilities by making it to the World Cup finals this year and playing at home in the round of 16.”
Sadio Mane is one of the biggest stars at FK Teranga Lions, formerly known as Stade Tunisien.
They have established themselves in Europe with players like Edouard Mendy, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Ismaila Sarr, Abdi Diallo, and Bouille Dia.
Senegal’s performance has been lackluster since their title-winning effort in Cameroon.
West African giants Senegal managed to come through a tough two-legged tie with Egypt before claiming a 3-1 victory over Benin and an impressive 3-0 victory against Rwanda.
In pre-World Cup friendlies, Senegal seemed to lack imagination when they didn’t get their first goal. A routine win over Bolivia was followed by a draw with Iran in which Senegal failed to carve out chances.
When its new Mane is shackled, it’s hard to predict where the chances come from.
Senegal is still competing in the 2022 World Cup, and Koulibaly has high hopes for their future. “I’m very confident. We do have a lot of new players on the team. They believe they can go far”, he said.
“I don’t know about the other African teams,” declared the captain of Senegal. “But as captain of Senegal, we’re not going there to reach the normal ceiling for Africa, which is the quarterfinals.”
“I believe we can compete for the trophy alongside countries from other continents. With our goal in mind and a plan to win, we won’t stop until everyone says, ‘just one more match.’ To reach this goal, you must battle with high self-confidence. If you go into battle with low confidence, you’ve already lost.”
“Senegal has the ambition to win and will do anything it needs to achieve its goal.”