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FIFA World Cup 2022: What awaits Senegal in the group stage

Mondial 2022 Adversaire du Sénégal Pays Bas
FIFA World Cup 2022: What awaits Senegal in the group stage

For the second consecutive time, Senegal will participate in a World Cup finals. As four years ago in Russia (Poland, Japan and Colombia), the Lions start the competition with a good European nation (Netherlands) before facing an Asian country (Qatar) and finish with a South American team (Ecuador). Hoping to have a better course.

Netherlands (8th FIFA ranking)
Those who knew Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United may doubt what a fine tactician he is and how much he knows about soccer. But on the bench of the Dutch national team, he is redeeming his watered-down image in England. Since he took over in September 2021, the Oranje have been unstoppable. They have beaten Belgium (4-1 and 1-0) and Wales (3-2; 2-1) in the Nations League and have secured their place in the Final Four.

Without a big superstar except Virgil Van Dijk who will play his first big competition for the national team, Van Gaal relies on a collective with very talented but also very unpredictable players: Mathis De Ligt, Frankie De Jong, Depay, Bergwijn, Klaassen...

In 2014 in Brazil, during his last stint at the head of the selection, the Dutch technician had raised his country to the 3rd place, losing only in the semi-finals on penalties against Argentina of Lionel Messi. In general, the Netherlands, considered as "losers" because they lost three finals, two of them in a row (1974-1978), despite having great generations, often manage to go far in major competitions.

Against African teams, the Dutch have for most of the time managed to do well. They beat Ivory Coast 5-0 (2017) and Ghana 1-0 (2013) in a friendly and dominated Cameroon in the 2010 World Cup (2-1). Tunisia, however, held them in a friendly in 2009 (1-1).

Netherlands' usual XI (1-3-5-2): Cilessen-De Ligt, Van Dijk, Ake-Dumfries, Berghuis, Klaassen, De Jong, Blind - Depay, Bergwijn.

Qatar (50th in the FIFA ranking)
In 2002, Senegal made its mark by reaching the quarterfinals for its first participation. But the nation that achieved the most improbable results was South Korea, playing in front of their home crowd. The Koreans had reached the last four, eliminating Spain and Germany in the process. The recipe of Guus Hiddink, their coach at the time: stop the Korean championship well before the competition, make a long internal regrouping and play friendly matches to have a united team and automatisms.

Twenty years later, Qatar is applying more or less the same recipe in order to perform at its 2022 World Cup. While all the other nations are still playing in the league and counting their injuries, the host country has suspended its own for two months. The selection is in regrouping and multiplying the test matches.

Since the season resumed in July, Qatar has played 10 matches while teams like Senegal have only played twice in September. In addition to this, the Qataris have been able to gain experience by playing the 2022 World Cup qualifiers in the European zone. Their coach, the Spaniard Felix Sanchez, knows his group well. He has seen most of them grow up. Since 2014, he has held various positions in the youth teams of Qatar. In particular, he has nursed the current star of the team Akram Afif (24 goals in 83 appearances) since the U19s.

Qatar have struggled against African teams this year, however. Sanchez's players have beaten the local team of Ghana (2-1) but they have stalled against the senior team of Morocco (2-1) and lost to Algeria (2-1).

Qatar's usual XI (3-4-1-2): Barsham - Salman, Khoukhi, Pedro Miguel - Al Rawi, Waad, Boudiaf, Ahmed - Asad - Afif, Almoez Ali.

Ecuador (44th in the FIFA ranking)
Among soccer fans, Ecuador is not the most dangerous South American team. The Tri has only four World Cup finals and the 8th final in 2006 is their best performance. On top of that, they have missed their last three appearances in the Copa America with no success.

However, the CONMEBOL teams have one thing in common: they never give up. Senegal knows something about this. In its two participations, it has always ended its group stage with a South American team. In 2002, Uruguay almost eliminated the Lions in the last moments by coming back to 3-3, after being led 3-0. And in 2018, while Senegal was holding its qualification, Colombia managed to snatch it by winning 1-0.

Fourth in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, Ecuador relies on a young squad. Most of them are part of the generation that finished 3rd in the U20 World Cup in 2019. And some of them are currently playing in Europe. Piero Hincapié (20) is making his mark at Bayer Leverkusen, Estupian (24) and Moses Caicedo (21) are playing for Brighton. And veteran captain Ener Valencia is back at Fernerbahçe. He is the top scorer in the Turkish Super Lig with 12 goals and 4 assists in 11 games. This is a good omen before the start of the 2022 World Cup.

Last June, Ecuador beat Nigeria (1-0) and Cape Verde (1-0) two African teams in a friendly.

Ecuador's usual eleven (4-3-3): Galindez - Castillo, Hincapié, Torres, Estupian - Gruezo, Caicedo, Franco - Plata, Estrada, Ibarra.


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