FIFA World Cup 2022: Ex-Uganda Cranes Players Tip Senegal to Excel Despite Sadio Mane’s Absence

Former Uganda Cranes players have tipped Senegal to excel in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that kicked off yesterday.

The ex-stars are optimistic that despite the African nations missing star player Sadio Mane, they have what it takes to perform better than the other four African teams taking part in the World event in Qatar.

Senegal is one of the African representatives at the world’s greatest football tournament together with Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco, and Ghana. The Lions of Teranga like the Senegal team is known are making their third appearance in the World Cup.

Senegal are placed in Group A along with hosts Qatar, Ecuador, and The Netherlands. They will be the first African country in action when they take on The Netherlands later tonight. Ecuador lead the group after stopping hosts Qatar 2-0 in the opening fixture played on Sunday.   

They come to the tournament with a pedigree after winning the African Cup of Nations back in February this year when they successfully defeated Egypt in the final played in Yaounde, Cameroon.

However, the side led by Coach Aliou Cisse suffered a late blow when their star player Sadio Mane was forced to withdraw from the competition days before their first game due to an injury he sustained while playing for his German club Bayern Munich.  

Despite Mane’s injury and the fact that team officials may have known he would not make it to the World Cup, Coach Cisse included him in the squad. He justified his decision by saying that Mane is a special player and that the team needed more. 

However, despite Mane’s absence, Ugandan football ex-players still believe Senegal will perform better than any other African nation  

Former Cranes captain Denis Onyango told URN that Senegal’s pedigree as defending champions will aid them as they play opponents in the World Cup, before adding that he believes Senegal’s group is not difficult. He also says Senegal can go through the group stages and reach the semifinals.

Tonny Mawejje, also another former Cranes player who retired months ago said that while he agrees that Senegal will miss Mane, they have a great depth in the squad, making it easy to replace him  

“Senegal can take us far as Africa than the rest of the teams, all teams have the experience but on paper, when you consider how good the team is, Senegal has an upper hand. Yes they will miss Sadio but they have other good players who can replace him, so they can go through the group stages and they are capable of going up to the semifinals,” he said  

Mawejje says Cameroon would be the second team up there, but their failure to impress in the Africa Cup of Nations this year as hosts it brings them down.

Andy Lule, former Uganda Cranes defender  now-turned coach said that the fact that Senegal’s squad has been together for some time, the experience will lead them throughout the entire tournament.  

“The only team that we can talk about now in Africa is Senegal, the defending champions of Africa. When you look at this team, they have been together for some time, they have won something together and they have many experienced players, so I think it has an upper hand better than any other team,” he said.

“I know the absence of Mane will affect them by any means, but I believe they are mentally strong to play without him, depending on the Competitive of the leagues where they play their professional football,” added Lule.

The Senegal team has a number of star players who have established themselves in Europe including forward Ismaila Sarr of the English Football League club Watford, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, defender Khalidou Koulibaly of the English Premier League club Chelsea, midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate of Nottingham Forest, and Idrissa Gueye of the Everton among others.

But just like Senegal, all African representatives will have to punch above their weight in the Qatar edition as no African team has ever advanced past the quarter final stage of the World Cup.

The best that African representatives have done in the previous editions of the tournament is qualifying for the quarter-finals in 1990 (Cameroon), 2002 (Senegal), and 2010 (Ghana) respectively but failed to break the jinx.

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