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Senegal World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

Senegal World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections article feature image
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Pictured: Kalidou Koulibaly.

  • Senegal face key questions ahead of the World Cup.
  • Will they cope with an injury to Sadio Mane?
  • Read on for a full preview of their tactics and what to expect.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network’s staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of Senegal ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Senegal World Cup Preview

Senegal come into the World Cup fresh off winning the Africa Cup of Nations over Egypt and then beating them again over two legs to qualify for their second straight World Cup. The Senegalese bring a ton of talent to the World Cup, but they were dealt a huge blow as their best player and one of the best attackers in world football, Sadio Mane is injured and will likely miss a majority of the event. However, it’s not Mane or nothing for Senegal, as this is a team loaded with talent that is playing in Europe’s top five leagues. Senegal come in 12th among World Cup teams in total squad transfer value, per transfermarkt.com.

The Lions of Teranga have completely dominated the continent of Africa since the 2018 World Cup, especially on the defensive end. Since their 1-1 draw with Togo in World Cup Qualifying on November 11th, 2021, nobody has created over 1 xG against them and that includes their entire Africa Cup of Nations run. It partly has to do with the fact that they have one of the best cente rbacks in the world in Kalidou Koulibaly, solid defensive midfielders in Pape Gueye, Pape Sarr & Nampalys Mendy  as well as a reliable goalkeeper in Edouard Mendy.

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 9.66% +500
Advance To Knockout Round 32.73% +110
Win World Cup 0.22% +12500
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

The attack generated a ton of chances during the Africa Cup of Nations, but really struggled to find the back of the net. They only scored one goal during the group stage, despite creating 3.73 xG, but then found their stride scoring eight goals in the knockout stage on their way to the title.

Senegal narrowly missed out on the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup after a Fair Play Points tiebreaker was the deciding factor in their exit. They were tied on points with Japan, and also tied on goal differential and goals for. It was a cruel way to exit their second ever World Cup appearance, and that will be on the minds of the Senegal players. Since that 2018 World Cup, in all competitive matches in Africa (CAF Qualification, AFCON and World Cup Qualifying) Senegal have a +0.80 xGD per 90 minutes and are only allowing 0.74 xG per match.

They are set up with a great chance to get out of group A. Senegal will be favored in matches against Ecuador and Qatar, which means if they can get a result in their first match against the Netherlands, they have a good shot at winning this group.

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Key Player: Kalidou Koulibaly

Now that Mane is hurt, Koulibaly is Senegal’s next-best player. Koulibaly recently made a move to Chelsea over the summer, but he had been one of the best defenders in Serie A for Napoli for a really long time. He consistently averaged over three tackles + interceptions per 90 minutes and he led a top-rated Napoli defense over his years there.

Koulibaly is now 32-years old and Chelsea’s defense has been struggling this season in the Premier League, but he has been incredibly vital for the best defense in Africa since the 2018 World Cup. He’s a big physical presence that can win aerial duals, is incredibly athletic enough to stop opposing counter attacks and consistently had over a 60% tackle percentage in Serie A. He’s been Senegal’s captain for a long time now, so without Mane, Senegal is going to play a more defensive style. Koulibaly will be Senegal’s most important player if they are going to get out of the group stage.

Tactical Analysis

Aliou Cissé has been managing Senegal for over seven years, so we have a good idea of the tactics he likes to employ. At the 2018 World Cup, Senegal had a fantastic 4-4-2 defensive shape out of possession, which helped them allow just 2.1 xG over their three matches. 

Since the 2018 World Cup, Cissé has changed his formation to a 4-3-3 to be a more aggressive and possession-dominant side against weaker opposition in Africa. 

During the AFCON, Senegal had a good blend of nine build-up attacks and 13 direct attacks, showing that they are easily able to sit deep and hit teams on the counter with their blazing speed they have in their front three. Their pressing has also really improved since that 2018 World Cup, with their front three having incredibly high work rates off the ball. Senegal led the Africa Cup of Nations with 51 high turnovers and was fourth in PPDA at 9.8. 

I’d imagine Cissé will have his team set up in a counter-attacking style against the Netherlands in their first match, but then I would look for Senegal to be more possession-dominant against Ecuador and Qatar. The good thing about how Senegal sets up under Cissé is that they have experience playing both styles, which will be a big benefit for them at this World Cup. 

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Senegal World Cup Schedule

Opponent Day/Time
Netherlands 11 a.m. ET, Nov. 20
Qatar 8 a.m. ET, Nov. 25
Ecuador 10 a.m. ET, Nov. 29

Most Recent World Cup Result

Third Place, Group Stage (2018)

Senegal suffered a devastating exit from the World Cup Finals in 2018. A four-point showing saw them level on points, goal differential, goals scored and goals allowed with Japan. The reason Japan got the nod in second place? A card accumulation tiebreaker, and Senegal had accumulated two more yellow cards than Japan.


Senegal World Cup Roster 

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