The Senegal national team, the holder of the African Cup of Nations, is seeking to win the tournament for the second time in a row, under the leadership of its coach, Aliou Cisse, and in the presence of most of its stars, such as Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Edouard Mendy.
After leaving the 2017 edition in the quarter-finals, Senegal succeeded in reaching the final twice in a row, losing the 2019 final to Algeria before winning the title for the first time in its history in the next edition at the expense of Egypt.
Côte d’Ivoire will host the 34th edition of the tournament from January 13 to February 11, after it was supposed to be held in June 2023, but it was postponed for six months due to weather concerns in West Africa at this time.
The Senegalese team plays in the third group, which includes the teams of Guinea, Cameroon and Gambia.
The Senegal national team qualified for the tournament held in Côte d’Ivoire after topping its group in the qualifiers.
Coach Cisse’s team leads its group in the African qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup with four points, ahead of Sudan on goal difference after a win and a draw in two rounds.
The Senegal national team ranked 20th in the latest classification of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).
The opportunity to exploit recent successes
Cisse has been coaching Senegal since 2015, succeeding coach Alain Giresse, after a disappointing participation in the 2015 edition and exit from the tournament in its first round.
Since then, the Senegal national team has not missed at least the round of sixteen in the last three editions of the tournament, as it was eliminated on penalties against Cameroon in the 2017 edition, before qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, where it was eliminated from the first round due to fair play after tying with Japan. In terms of the number of points, goal difference and goals scored, the Japanese team received four yellow cards compared to six cards for Senegal.
Cisse continued to lead his country to qualify for the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, which was held in Egypt, but he clashed with Algeria and lost 1-0, leaving the Senegal team losing the opportunity to win the title for the first time in its history.
The Senegalese team had what they wanted in the next edition in Cameroon by defeating Egypt on penalties, bringing Cisse the first title for his country.
Senegal’s journey of success continued with Cisse after he led his country to qualify for the round of 16 in the World Cup in Qatar, before the journey ended with a 3-0 loss at the hands of England.
The squad chosen by the 47-year-old coach for the tournament included the presence of many familiar names recently, as he included striker Boulay Dia in his squad of 27 players despite speculation about his absence.
It seemed that the 27-year-old striker’s chances of participating in the tournament were dashed after he left with a thigh injury in his team’s Salernitana match against Milan in the Italian League, but Cisse seemed confident of his recovery, contrary to what Italian media reported.
It also included defender Youssef Sabally, who returned to training with Real Betis after being away from the field since last August, in addition to midfielder Nambales Mendy, who had been absent from competitions in recent weeks.
Mane seeks to make up for his absence from the World Cup
Mane, the star of the Senegal national team and Al-Nassr Saudi Arabia, will have a desire to make up for what he missed after he led his country to qualify for the World Cup finals at the expense of Egypt, but he missed the tournament held in Qatar due to the injury he suffered with his former team, Bayern Munich.
Mane was present when his team lost the title to Algeria in 2019, but he was the hero on the historic coronation night for the first time in the next edition, as he scored three goals for his country in that edition, in addition to scoring the decisive penalty kick against Egypt.
The 31-year-old player, who played more than a hundred international matches with Senegal, became his country’s all-time top scorer.
Mane regained some of his brilliance in the last matches with Al-Nasr after a start that was not strong, as he scored eight goals and made four assists during the 18 matches he played in the Saudi Professional League so far.
The post first appeared on aawsat.com