Qatar 2022: Senegal – Team guide, key players and full fixtures

This time around, it is the Teranga Lions burdened with the responsibility of leading. Ranked 18th in the world and top of the African tree, there is every prospect of them once again making a deep run.

Or at least there was until Sadio Mane crumpled to the turf against Werder Bremen a fortnight before their opening match against the Netherlands.

While this is a talented group with a lot of upside, there is nevertheless a great deal of dependency on Bayern forward Mane. The 30-year-old is a reference point for Senegal’s attacking play, offering creativity, goals and even tactical flexibility; it remains to be seen if Mane will be fit, but it is not overstating it to say their chances rest entirely on his availability.

Their recent form illustrates this perfectly: excepting own goals, five of Senegal’s six goals since winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in February have been scored by Mane.

The history

This is only Senegal’s third appearance at the World Cup. On debut in 2002, they stunned the world, beating France and Sweden on the way to a quarter-final finish. That team, led by Bruno Metsu, captured the imagination with their speed and intensity, and scored in every game save for their defeat to Turkey.

In 2018, the Teranga Lions came within a whisker of becoming only the third African team to ever progress from the World Cup Group Stage twice. In the end, only an accumulation of yellow cards denied Senegal; Japan progressed instead.

The coach and tactical approach

Senegal are capable of flitting between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-1-1, but in both systems, a lot depends on Mane. The former Liverpool man starts on the left in the former and is tucked in behind the striker in the latter, but either way the burden of being inventive and prompting is placed on him. In fairness, he acquits himself well.

Whether the same can be said of coach Aliou Cisse remains to be seen. Winning the AFCON has quieted some of the doubts around his tactical ability, but not all of them. Victory can lead to amnesia; Senegal were genuinely rancid for much of the tournament in Cameroon, and really only kicked into gear from the quarter-final onward. Since that victorious night in Yaounde, there have been underwhelming wins over the likes of Rwanda and Bolivia.

With Mane’s fitness a point of concern, the knives could come out for Cisse should Senegal fumble a kind Group Stage draw.

The squad

A marker of the evolution of Senegal over the last four years is that their squad to Qatar features only seven of the 23 that made up their selection for the 2018 World Cup. See full squad here.

Key players

The aforementioned Mane is the be-all and end-all as far as the team’s attacking intentions go, but that is not to say Senegal lack talent.

In fact, if his involvement in Qatar is impaired, it would afford Ismaila Sarr a chance to truly shine as the team’s premier attacker. Ironically, he missed the opening four matches of the AFCON through injury, but Senegal were so determined to have him feature, they engaged in an almighty row with Watford to include him in the squad regardless.

Young player

At the AFCON in January, Bamba Dieng was the beneficiary of Sarr’s unavailability for much of the tournament, and shone starting on the right of the attack. The 22-year-old is pacy and quick-witted, but has found game time at club level limited this season following a failed transfer deadline day move to Leeds United.

There is some upside to this, however: it means he will be fresh, and if Sarr has to move to the left, it should be Dieng who benefits.

Probable lineup


  • Senegal v Netherlands (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha; 21 November 2022)
  • Senegal v Qatar (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha; 25 November 2022)
  • Senegal v Ecuador (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan; 29 November 2022)

Tournament prediction

It really comes down to how fit (or otherwise) Mane is. If, as has been reported, he is not available for the Group Stage, then Senegal could struggle for impetus and ideas in attack. The fact that they kick off against the Netherlands could also leave them playing catch-up early on, and would lump unnecessary pressure onto their second game against host country Qatar.

In a way, it may come down how the World Cup opening match goes. If Qatar get a result against Ecuador (which is likely), the positivity and momentum could carry them past Senegal, especially if Cisse’s side post a poor result and performance themselves against the Dutch.