Lions are no strangers to an upset
Senegal arrive in Russia having won an African qualifying group which included Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa. The latter endured a nightmare campaign, finishing bottom with a record of one win, one draw and four defeats from six. Senegal ended unbeaten on 4-2-0 but there hasn’t been a scramble from odds compilers to support the Lions of Teranga.
Shocking world football is nothing new to the nation who famously defeated France in 2002 when making their first appearance in the competition. They reached the quarter-finals that year. Beginners luck? Traders think so and have Senegal priced at 300/1 to win the tournament outright, 1/2 at Bet Victor to be eliminated at the group phase. The Africans share a pool with Poland, Colombia and Japan.
How they fare in game one against Poland on Tuesday 19th June – 1.00pm live on ITV – will give us a good indication of their chances of reaching the knockout stage but they boast some real individual talent and we’ll be interested to see how they’ve progressed. Three familiar names to look out for…..
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Sadio the Mane danger man
The striker enjoyed another fantastic season at Liverpool with The Reds banking a top-four finish in the Premier League and place in the final of the Champions League. The addition of Mo Salah has taken a bit of the weight off Mane who had been carrying Klopp’s scoring chances on his own for so long. Happy to be put in the shadow by the Egyptian he still helped himself to 19 goals and set-up another eight.
The Reds’ number 19 scored against Burkina Faso last summer and will be asked by manager Aliou Cisse to pull his weight in the final-third again and aid his team’s progress. Helped himself to a stunning hat-trick against Porto in the Champions League earlier this year and he’s 3/1 favourite with Bet Victor to hit the net more times than any other Senegalese player.
Another name British football fans will know well, Diafra Sakho is the former West Ham striker now on the books of French Ligue 1 side Rennes. 18 goals in 62 appearances made him a favourite of Hammers followers during his stint in East London but at the time of his departure he had made only 14 league appearances, all from the bench. Seems to be having a better time of things in France where he got off the mark with a debut goal against PSG.
In the colours of Senegal, Sakho was on target late last year when breaking the deadlock in a 2-0 win over South Africa in a qualifier, Mkhize’s first-half own-goal the second. Bagged a brace for Rennes in a 2-2 draw with Caen back in February and will be an important player in supporting Mane. On paper there’s plenty of goals in that partnership. Sakho is 8/1 to finish as Senegal’s top scorer.
The well-travelled 32-year-old will be hoping to break into the starting line-up with the 5ft 11inch French-born striker already scoring 16 goals for Senegal from 46 call-ups. He represented Les Bleus at U19 and U21 level before switching sides and this will surely be the last we see of Sow at a World Cup competition.
Has experience at some of European football’s biggest clubs including Lille and Fenerbahce but can currently be found working for Bursaspor in Turkey – on loan from Shabab Al Ahli – where he didn’t have his strongest campaign. He did hit form towards the end of spring and was on the scoresheet three games in-a-row. His experience will be vital in what’s sure to be a tense group campaign but manager Cisse knows he has a reliable head to call upon in Sow.