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Qatar 2022: Senegal’s five players to watch

By FIFA
Senegal's players celebrate with Senegal's head coach Aliou Cisse after winning the AFCON 2021 final match between Senegal and Egypt | AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

Senegal would doubtless prefer to avoid a repeat of their Russia 2018 campaign in Qatar.

The Lions of Teranga created an undesirable piece of history by becoming the first-ever nation to be eliminated from a FIFA World Cup™ group stage via their fair-play record.

Aliou Cisse’s charges finishing level with Japan on four points, but collecting two more yellow cards.

Two decades after Korea/Japan 2002, when Bruno Metsu’s side shocked the football world by advancing to the quarter-finals, Senegal will travel to Qatar with a new status – that of continental champions.

An achievement that has done wonders for the confidence of Sadio Mane and Co. Here are five Senegalese players to watch out for at Qatar 2022.

Edouard Mendy | Position: Goalkeeper | Age: 30

Senegal’s Edouard Mendy was voted best goalkeeper at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations | CAF Image

Four years ago, Mendy was enhancing his growing reputation between the sticks for modest French club Reims. Since then, he has become one of the best goalkeepers on the planet.

The Chelsea custodian enjoyed great success in 2021, lifting the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup, and his excellent performances, as well as his perseverance, tenacity and rigour, were rewarded with The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper award in January.

Equipped with an imposing frame, exceptional reach, and reassuring presence, Mendy has, in the space of just a few years, developed into one of Senegal’s key components.

Kalidou Koulibaly | Position: Defender | Age: 31

Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly | Courtesy photo

Aliou Cisse has placed great trust in new Chelsea signing Koulibaly, handing him the captain’s armband in 2019 – a year after the World Cup in Russia – and assigning him the task of marshalling the Senegalese rearguard.

The right-footed centre-back is renowned for the confidence he exudes on the pitch, well-timed interceptions and effective clearances.

Technically proficient and a sound decision-maker, he can relaunch play from the back, supporting counter-attacks and offering an extra option when his teammates are faced with a compact defence.

A rugged man-marker, the robust and powerful Koulibaly is generally acknowledged to be one of the most formidable defenders on the planet.

Idrissa Gueye | Position: Midfielder | Age: 32

Zimbabwe’s defender Takudzwa Chimwemwe (L) vies with Senegal’s midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye (R) during the Group B Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Senegal and Zimbabwe at Stade de Kouekong in Bafoussam on January 10, 2022. (Photo by Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP) (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

Gueye is the beating heart of the Lions of Teranga, capable of accelerating the game as well as slowing it down.

Adept at creating an overlap and delivering a final pass, he also excels at intercepting and winning the ball. Gueye’s ability to read the game makes him the perfect match for Senegal’s style of play.

A big-game performer, the former Aston Villa and Paris Saint-Germain player tends to thrive under pressure.

After revelling in his country’s recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations victory, the Dakar native is now dreaming of achieving even greater success in a Senegal jersey.

Nampalys Mendy | Position: Midfielder | Age: 30

Senegalese midfielder Nampalys Mendy

Transformed by his fantastic displays during the AFCON in Cameroon, Mendy has breathed new life into his career as he gets ready to experience a World Cup for the first time.

The diminutive player brings extra pace to the Senegalese midfield, where his physical strength and low centre of gravity allow him to maintain his balance in tight spaces.

Tactically sound, the dependable Mendy possesses a high level of stamina that enables him to cover large areas of the pitch, strong ball-winning skills, the ability to use his body to fend off opponents, and a varied passing range.

Sadio Mane | Position: Forward | Age: 30

Sadio Mane| CAF Images

Sadio Mane is viewed as the most technically gifted player in the Senegal XI. Recently named African Footballer of the Year for the second time, the Bayern Munich attacker was part of the Liverpool team that reached the final of the UEFA Champions League in May.

Boasting a top speed of 34.84 km per hour, which makes him one of the fastest forwards on the planet, the Sedhiou native is capable of explosive bursts of pace at key moments during crucial matches.

Creative on and off the ball, he causes defences significant problems with his incisive and energetic approach.

Astute in his positioning, Mane poses a considerable goal threat, irrespective of whether he has his back to goal or is facing it, or whether he receives the ball deep – a location from which he can attempt one of his trademark low shots into the corner of the net – or is looking to put a clinical finishing touch to a cross into the box.

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