- Allou Cisse captained Senegal to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. Now, as coach, he molds a team featuring the likes of Sadio Mane and Kalidou Koulibaly, and one capable of pulling a surprise.
Senegal has booked a place in the 2018 World Cup for the first time since its debut in 2002, when it beat defending champion France on the way to the quarterfinals.
Back then, Senegal was only the second African team to make the last eight at a World Cup.
Though Senegal lacks global tournament experience, it finds itself in a winnable group, which could easily see put the Lions of Teranga on course to emulate the success they had in South Korea and Japan.
Coach Aliou Cisse was the captain of the 2002 Senegalese World Cup team, and he will hope to be a firm reminder of what this group of players can achieve at this year's tournament. With a squad full of European based players such as Sadio Mane, Cheihkou Kouyate and Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal has a squad that could cause an upset or two in Russia. Here's a closer look at Senegal's chances.
How They Qualified
Senegal qualification campaign was a successful one. Not only did it qualify for its second World Cup, but it finished top of Africa's Group D (South Africa, Cape Verde Islands, Burkina Faso) unbeaten, only conceding three goals in the process.
Though the records show it seemed like an easy qualification campaign for Senegal, a contentious moment did favor the Senegalese.
An unprecedented decision by FIFA–to order a replay of their 2-1 loss in South Africa because of match-fixing by the referee–saw Senegal benefit, as it won the replay 2-1.
Senegal now travels to Russia - alongside Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria - with form on its side.
Possible Route to the Final
The World Cup draw placed Senegal in Group H alongside Poland, Colombia and Japan. Realistically it's one of the only groups that could see any of the four teams finish in the top two and progress into the last 16.
Senegal's first game is on June 19 against Poland, in a game that could go either way. An opening win could see Senegal push on to win the group and once again find itself progressing into the next round.
With Japan its opponents on June 2, and a final game against Colombia on the 28th, it will be an exciting group to keep an eye on.
If Senegal does finish the group as winner or runner-up, it could face the likes of either Belgium or England in the last 16.
Depending on Senegal's form in the group stage, coming up against a side like England could favor the African nation, given it has a squad full of European-based players who may be quite familiar with the style and personnel they'll face.
Beyond that, the likes of Germany could be waiting in the quarterfinals, which may be too tall an ask for the upstart nation.
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Stade Rennes), Alfred Gomis (SPAL), Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya)
Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Kara Mbodii (Anderlecht), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Salif Sane (Hannover 98), Moussa Wague (Eupen)
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Alfred Ndiaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City), Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham City), Ismaila Sarr (Stade Rennes)
Forwards: Keita Balde (Monaco), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mbaye Niang (Torino), Diafra Sakho (Stade Rennes), Moussa Sow (Bursaspor)
(4-3-3): Khadim N'Diaye; Kalidou Koulibaly, Salif Sane, Youssouf Sabaly, Lamine Gassama; Cheihkou Kouyate, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikh Ndoye; Mbaye Niang, Sadio Mane, Diafra Sakho
Senegal has the skill, talent and experience–in Cisse–to not only get out of its group, but become a thorn once it's in the knockout stage. Group H is wide open, and while Colombia and Poland may have better odds, it'd be unwise to doubt a team as talented as Senegal.
If the Lions of Teranga can continue the form that saw them top their qualification group, Cisse may once against lead his country to the knockout stage, and perhaps even the quarterfinals, this time as a coach.