Reigning Africa champions Senegal will begin their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign against three-time finalists of the competition at Al-Thumama Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Netherlands are entering the tournament with a fine form under former Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, having reached the UEFA Nations League finals for the second time in three campaigns.
While the fledgling competition’s credentials are often questioned, all three of Oranje’s Group 4 opponents – Belgium, Poland and Wales – will compete at the forthcoming World Cup, making their points tally of 16 from six matches appear even more impressive than first meets the eye.
Netherlands missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but they did advance to the semi-finals under van Gaal’s tutelage in 2014, ultimately losing to Argentina in a penalty shootout after a goalless draw across 120 minutes.
Widely regarded as the biggest footballing nation never to win the World Cup – having lost three finals in 1974, 1978 and 2010 – there is growing belief that this could be their year despite lacking a sprinkle of star individual quality when compared to their previous near misses
Meanwhile, Senegal suffered a massive blow with Bayern Munich talismanic forward Sadio Mane ruled out of the World Cup following an injury he picked up in their Bundesliga game against Werder Bremen.
Head coach Aliou Cisse had hoped that the issue would only prevent his star man from playing in the Lions of Teranga’s first match or two, but Cisse will now have to adjust his tactical blueprint to deal with the absence of the former Liverpool man.
Mane, who scored two winning penalties against Egypt to seal Senegal’s first ever Africa Cup of Nations triumph as well as cement their place in Qatar earlier this year, clearly leaves a major hole to fill in attack, with only Ismaila Sarr and Famara Diedhiou in double figures for goals scored (10 apiece) for the Teranga Lions.
However, Cisse’s side are generally tough to break down, with six clean sheets in their last eight competitive matches proving to be the bedrock of their recent AFCON success and qualification for the World Cup.
The 46-year-old will almost certainly be looking for his players to keep things tight against Netherlands, before going into more winnable fixtures against Qatar and Ecuador as they look to reach the knockout stages for only the second time in their history.
Netherlands will be opening their journey at the 2022 World Cup without Memphis Depay who has been confirmed unavailable for the Senegal game due to a hamstring injury.
Also, Marten de Roon and Denzel Dumfries are doubtful for the fixture.
On the part of Senegal, RB Leipzig’s Abdou Diallo may miss out on his country’s first match at the World Cup with a knee issue. He is expected to recover before their second group A game against
The is scheduled to Kickoff at the 16:00 GMT (4:00PM)
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