What you need to know:
- Their coach Louis van Gaal, who guided the Oranje to a third place finish in Brazil 2014, returned for another stint in which he declared “my personal goal is to become world champion.”
- Barcelona duo Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay could cause all sorts of problems for Teranga Lions and the Oranje will feel well capable of taking all three points.
No African country made it out of the group stage at the last World Cup in Russia 2018.
If any is expected to enter the round of 16 here in Qatar then it has to be reigning African champions Senegal.
They are certainly in the easiest group, comparatively, of the five African nations, and are also the highest ranked team in the continent at position 18.
But the Teranga Lions suffered a huge blow last week when their star player, Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mane was ruled out of the tournament at the very last moment with an injury that required surgery.
Mane has certainly been the mainstay of the team and his exploits are well known even here in the Gulf nation where locals were looking forward to seeing the Ballon d’Or runner up strut his stuff.
Senegal will open their campaign against a rising Netherlands side at the Al Thumama Stadium, situated some 10 kilometres south of Doha from 7pm today.
The day will see three matches held in succession with England facing Iran from 4pm at the refurbished, 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium and the USA tackling Wales from 10pm at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Senegal have been quietly training at Duhail Sports Club where Kenya’s Michael Olunga’s Al Duhail club is based.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse, who captained Senegal to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals knows the heavy expectations of not just the Senegalese people but the African continent on them performing well.
Without Mane, Senegal can look to their top scorer in the African qualifiers Famara Diedhou of Turkey’s Alanyaspor with four strikes and Watford forward Ismalia Sarr for goals.
They also have the experienced Chelsea duo, captain Kalidou Koulibaly with 63 caps under his name and goalkeeper Eduoard Mendy.
The Dutch, considered one of the best football playing nations never to have won a World Cup, will also be looking to start on the right note.
Their coach Louis van Gaal, who guided the Oranje to a third place finish in Brazil 2014, returned for another stint in which he declared “my personal goal is to become world champion.”
Barcelona duo Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay could cause all sorts of problems for Teranga Lions and the Oranje will feel well capable of taking all three points.
This could be the group decider, one feels. The match will be handled by Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio.
Many overseas fans started streaming into Qatar yesterday. The new metro service was decidedly busier with football’s greatest showpiece truly underway.