Senegal: Five players to watch

The reigning African Football of the Year and The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper feature as FIFA+ profiles five men who will be key to the hopes of the Lions of Teranga at Qatar 2022.

Senegal will be without the reigning African Football of the Year

The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper holder represents the Lions of Teranga

One of the world’s best defenders is also at Aliou Cisse’s disposal

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, with 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 their confidence. Here are five Senegalese players to watch out for at Qatar 2022.

Edouard Mendy

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 30

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

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 has the ability to relaunch play from the back, supporting counter-attacks and offering an extra option when his team-mates 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 Gana Gueye

Position: Midfielder

Age: 32

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

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.

Iliman Ndiaye

Position: Midfielder

Age: 22

With Sadio Mane out injured, Ndiaye could be the star of this World Cup. The 22-year-old , along with Krepin Diatta and Ismaila Sarr, represents the youth of the Lions of Teranga’s attacking line-up.

Ndiaye, who is fast and ambidextrous, is a versatile player, a real Swiss Army knife for Aliou Cisse. He can play on the front line, on the wings or at the back, and even as an attacking midfielder, where he is a playmaker.

Mobile and technical, with a liking for dribbling and attacking, Ndiaye could very well be one of the revelations of this World Cup. He is one to watch very closely.

Source: Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF)