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African champions Senegal have a decent chance of finishing at the top of their 2022 Fifa World Cup group

African champions Senegal have a decent chance of finishing at the top of their 2022 Fifa World Cup group
Sadio Mane of Senegal (above) is rated as the best striker in the world by former Liverpool and Senegal forward El Hadji Diouf. Diouf says Senegal have a good chance of getting through to the round of 16 in the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar. (Photo: Visionhaus / Getty Images)

African champions Senegal will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages of the upcoming Fifa World Cup after being drawn in the same group as the Netherlands, Ecuador and tournament hosts Qatar.

Reigning African champions Senegal were on the better side of the draw for the 2022 Fifa World Cup draw which takes place in November and will be hosted by Qatar.

The Lions of Teranga have an outstanding chance of emulating or even surpassing their exploits at the 2002 edition, where they went all the way to the quarterfinals during their debut appearance at the tournament. Then, they finished second behind group winners Denmark; edging out two-time world champions Uruguay and the then defending champions, France.

Two decades later and in what will be their third World Cup appearance, they have a real opportunity to not only make it out of their group, but actually win the mini-league outright. The West Africans have been pitted against hosts Qatar, a resurgent Netherlands, as well as Ecuador, who finished fourth in the 10-team South American qualifying league.

During the 2018 edition, the Senegalese found themselves on the wrong side of history. In a group consisting of Colombia, Japan and Poland they finished third, failing to qualify for the knockouts. It wasn’t for a lack of trying though. Following a win, a draw and a loss in their three group games, the Lions of Teranga found themselves level on points, goals scored and goals conceded with the Japanese.

Consequently, Fifa used the two nations’ disciplinary records to determine who would finish as runner-up to first-placed Colombia. In a historic first for the global spectacle, Japan progressed to the knockouts by virtue of having two fewer yellow cards than the African side.

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Four years later, Senegal are out to avoid being caught in a similar situation. Former Liverpool and Senegal forward El Hadji Diouf believes they have what it takes to achieve this and make it through to the round of 16 for the second time in three attempts.

“Senegal and the Netherlands are favourites of Group A. The first match to be played against the Netherlands will be decisive. The Lions must come with all guns blazing. They must raise their level of play to get by,” said Diouf.

Diouf referred to Chelsea goalkeeper Édouard Mendy, Napoli’s coveted defender Kalidou Koulibaly, and Liverpool forward Sadio Mane as the players to steer the Lions of Teranga to success, saying: “We have the best goalkeeper, the best central defender and the best striker in the world.”

The other four African representatives were handed slightly tougher draws. Ghana have an opportunity to avenge their heartbreaking quarterfinal defeat to Uruguay in the 2010 edition, which is famed for that Luis Suarez handball. In addition to the South Americans, they are joined by Portugal and Korea Republic in Group H.

Meanwhile, Morocco will play the star-studded Belgium, 2018 finalist Croatia, and Canada — who will be playing in just their second World Cup tournament. Cameroon is in Group G alongside record world champions Brazil, with Serbia and Switzerland.

The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia don’t have it any easier in Group D. They will play title holders France, Denmark and a team from one of the intercontinental playoffs which will see Peru (who finished fifth in South American qualifying) play the United Arab Emirates or Australia in June.

One of the most anticipated fixtures in the group phase will feature Spain, who were champions in 2010, and four-time winners Germany.

Spanish coach Luis Enrique, whose team features starlets such as Barcelona’s Pedri, hinted that he fancies his team’s chances of winning their group outright. In addition to the Germans, Spain will play Japan and whoever wins the intercontinental playoff when Costa Rica and New Zealand clash in June.

“It’s a strong group if you take into consideration Germany, but we are the top seeds because of our merits and the work we have been doing in recent years,” said Enrique.

“As for the rest of the group, I won’t lie to you — I know almost nothing. Now is the moment to take the time to study them and continue thinking and trusting in what we are as a team. We’re not going to change how we play whether it’s the World Cup or a friendly. Our style is very clear, and it will be very difficult to play against us.”

Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
Group B: England, IR Iran, USA, European playoff winner
Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
Group D: France, Denmark, Tunisia, Intercontinental playoff 1 winner
Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, Intercontinental playoff 2 winner
Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, Korea Republic DM

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