Sunday World (South Africa)

Without Mane, can Senegal upset Netherland­s in Qatar?

Two teams are ranked 8th and 18th, a good match likely

- By Tiyani wa ka Mabasa

It is now official that Senegal star Sadio Mane will miss this year’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar and that’s a huge blow for the Lions of Teranga as they prepare to face the Netherland­s tomorrow at 6pm.

The Netherland­s are seen as overwhelmi­ng favourites, especially after confirmati­on that Mane will be sidelined for weeks with a tendon injury sustained while playing for his club, Bayern Munich, recently.

Africa’s reigning champions will meet Louis van Gaal’s men who are expected to win without breaking a sweat, according to the observers on paper, that is. Without Mane in Senegal’s lineup, that sounds believable.

But it won’t be a walk in the park for the Orange Army in this Group A encounter, considerin­g other factors.

The reality is that the two opponents are not worlds apart. Well, in a footballin­g sense.

The Netherland­s are ranked 8th in world football, while Senegal are not far off in 18th spot. They will be meeting for the first time ever in a competitiv­e match, which makes it even more interestin­g, bearing in mind both are favourites to progress from their group at the expense of hosts Qatar and Ecuador.

The Netherland­s have a good team. Barcelona duo Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay comes to mind, as well as Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, but on the flip side of the coin, you have a Senegal team also brimming with talent, with the likes of Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly, both of Chelsea.

But the big question remains; who will replace Mane?

Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse has probably spent sleepless nights working out a plan to fill in the void left by the Bayern forward, who boasts 93 caps for the West Africans and will certainly not be easily replaced. Newcomer Iliman Ndiaye, who’s

been in fine form for English Championsh­ip side Sheffield United, is expected

to get the nod and has big shoes to fill.

Be that as it may, Senegal remain Africa’s biggest hope and rightly so, given their number one status in the continent. In the past, they reached the quarterfin­als in 2002, but failed to make it past a relatively easy group in Russia 2018, which included Colombia, Poland and Japan.

Now, they have an opportunit­y to redeem themselves, and who better to do it against than the Netherland­s, who were runners-up in the 2010 edition hosted by South Africa.

On the other hand, the Netherland­s have a lot to prove after failing to qualify for the 2018 edition.

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 ?? /Getty Images ?? Virgil van Dijk of the Netherland­s during the UEFA Nations League A group 4 match against Belgium.
/Getty Images Virgil van Dijk of the Netherland­s during the UEFA Nations League A group 4 match against Belgium.

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