Are Senegal ‘Africa’s best hope’ at World Cup 2022 ?

The Teranga Lions will be competing in their third World Cup and their first as African champions.

Previous appearances at the World Cup include 2002 and 2018.
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The best performance thus far: the quarterfinals (2002)
Overall World Cup record: 3 wins, 2 losses, and 3 draws.
Eleven goals were scored in the World Cup.
Most significant victory: a 1-0 triumph against France (2002)
Sadio Mane is an intriguing player.
The Netherlands (November 21), Qatar (November 25), and Ecuador (November 28) are ranked 1, 2, and 3, respectively, out of the 18 games in their respective groups (November 29).

Senegal has the least experience of Africa's five World Cup entrants in 2022.
The Teranga Lions are making their third straight World Cup appearance and their first as African champions.

Despite this, the West African country is in a quite exceptional position. Senegal became only the third African team ever to advance to the World Cup's quarterfinals on their debut.
To get to the quarterfinals in 2002, they upset the defending world and European champions, France, and scored in all but one game.
Despite that overwhelming triumph, Senegal failed to qualify for the next three World Cups, making 2022 their first year of consecutive qualification.
Aliou Cisse, who captained the Teranga Lions during their "great adventure" in 2002 and has been the team's manager for the past seven years, will lead the team as they look to move past the disappointment of 2018.
Senegal's elimination from the 2018 World Cup on the basis of fair play made history, but defender Kalidou Koulibaly is confident his squad has learned from the experience.
A Chelsea defender recently promised viewers of Channel Sports that his team "will not make the same mistake again."
We had a wonderful group of players, and it's sad that we weren't able to achieve better in 2018. There will be a positive impact on our 2019 efforts in Qatar thanks to what we learned in 2018.
The fact that they are the reigning African champions will also give them an advantage. Senegal struggled early on to assert themselves at the January Africa Cup of Nations, as they were placed in a group with Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The Lions, however, really came into their own in the knockout stages and were justifiable champions despite needing a penalty shootout to win the final.

This was not only the first time the Senegalese had ever tasted silverware, but it also added credibility to the present generation and to Cisse's contributions. Furthermore, it solidified their status as the continent's top contender for a deep run in Qatar.

The specialist on African football, Mark Gleeson, recently told Al Jazeera that he believes Senegal represents Africa's greatest hope. I'm rooting for them to advance to the quarterfinals, but it all comes down to who they face in the round of 16. In my opinion, they will be the only African team to advance.

The luck of the draw improves that outlook.

Group A features the tournament hosts, Qatar, making their first World Cup appearance, along with South America's only automatic qualifier, Ecuador, who will present a tough test in the opening game against the Netherlands.

Senegal is favored to advance thanks to its high FIFA ranking and strong team.
As Koulibaly put it, "it's an open group," and he acknowledged that the team will face formidable challenges.

Qatar has home field advantage, the Netherlands is a top-tier football nation with stars like Virgil van Dijk (whom I've faced many times in my career), and Ecuador has more than earned its spot in the tournament.

Sadio Mane, who plays for Bayern Munich, has been named African Footballer of the Year twice and is unquestionably the brightest star for the Teranga Lions.

A number of their players, including Edouard Mendy, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Ismaila Sarr, Abdou Diallo, and Boulaye Dia, have already made names for themselves in Europe.
Senegal has had unimpressive results after its title-winning performance in Cameroon.

After escaping a two-legged playoff against Egypt with a 1-1 aggregate score, they beat 10-man Benin 3-1 and edged out Rwanda 1-0 with a penalty kick in extra time.

The outcomes of warm-up games leading up to the World Cup have also caused some alarm. After beating Bolivia without much of a fight, Senegal played Iran to a 1-1 tie, in which they failed to score.

There is a larger worry that this contributes to. Because of Mane's confinement, it's often hard to identify where the chances are coming from.

Koulibaly is unfazed by Senegal's recent struggles and insists the team has its sights set on making a deep run at the World Cup in Qatar.

I can't speak for the other African teams, but I can say with confidence that as Senegal's captain, I'm not taking my squad to the tournament with the goal of making it to the quarterfinals, which is considered the standard on the continent.

For the trophy, I think we can compete with countries from all around the world. If our only goal at the World Cup is to make it through the group stage, then we have no business being there. It's a sad reflection of a defeatist outlook. You have already lost the war before you even start it if you go into it with the mindset that you are not up to par.

"Senegal's mindset in Qatar is to win," the coach said.

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