Senegal fans at the World Cup

2022 World Cup: Everything you need to know about England’s last 16 opponents Senegal

Reigning African Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions, an injured talisman and a tribute to a former great: how England can overcome Senegal in the last 16 in Qatar.

Following a nervy 2-1 win over Ecuador, Senegal secured second place in Group A and a World Cup last 16 match against England.

After beating Egypt on penalties in the AFCON Final, Senegal are now featuring in their third World Cup, after 2002 and 2018.

Having lost their talisman Sadio Mane to injury before the tournament kicked off, the East Africans have rallied together in his absence and qualified out of a tough group also containing the Netherlands and hosts Qatar.

England has never played Senegal, so here’s what we have seen from the African country so far.

What the experts are saying

Award-winning Ghanaian sports journalist Saddick Adams said: “This is a very dangerous Senegalese side, similar to how they beat France in 2002.

“The Three Lions should be afraid because a considerable number of this Senegalese side play in the Premier League and this is something that is not easy for England.

“Upsets at the World Cup are caused majorly because teams are underrating their opponents and underdogs are the ones causing upsets.

“If England come into this game underrating Senegal, I think that will go against them, the most important thing for England to do is not to give Senegal that chance.”


Senegal have adapted the way they play in their subsequent games and in their 3-1 win against Qatar and 2-1 win against Ecuador, all five of the goals came from different goalscorers.

Chelsea duo Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly both made mistakes against the Netherlands, with the former culpable for both goals, but both have improved and Koulibaly scored the winner against Ecuador. 

Starting the tournament in a conventional 4-3-3 against the Netherlands, manager Aliou Cisse made changes to counter Qatar and lined up in a 4-4-2 and was rewarded with goals from both his strikers Boulaye Dia and Famara Diedhou.

In their pivotal winner takes all game against Ecuador, Cisse opted for a 4-2-3-1 with a midfield composed of three more defensive minded midfielders.

Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye started in a more offensive role ahead of Pape Gueye and breakout star Pathe Ciss.

Team cohesion

The absence of Mane has had a huge impact on Senegal, evidenced by their struggles in front of goal in their Group A opener against the Netherlands, a game they lost 2-0 despite having a number of good chances.

Senegal also lost Nottingham Forest’s Cheickhou Kouyate to injury in that game. Kouyate had featured in all but one game in their AFCON victory, but the Lions of Teranga have shown an ability to overcome adversity, something England will have to be wary of.

Following their close victory over Ecuador, the Senegalese players unveiled a banner dedicated to Papa Bouba Diop who had passed away two years ago to the day after a battle with ALS.


Going into the game against England, Senegal will also be missing key midfielder Idrissa Gueye due to suspension in what would have been his 100th cap.

Whilst it has been a strength so far, Cisse has faced criticism for his ever-changing midfield and often trying to counter-play his opponents rather than having their own style of play.

Finding a winger to play opposite Ismaila Sarr has also been a problem since Mane’s injury, as Cisse has played Kreppin Diata and Iliman Ndiaye without either player impressing.

How they may line-up

With Gueye missing, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pape Sarr may be a natural replacement in a defensive midfield three, the team against England line-up in a 4-3-3:

Mendy; Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs; Ciss, Gueye, P. Sarr; I. Sarr, Dia, Diatta

Featured image credit: Екатерина Лаут via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence

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