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Football: Senegal, a champion under construction


Lhe road to CAN 2023 has started for the African champion, the first two qualifying days coming to the end of a historic season. With some questions to solve a few months before the World Cup. No more CAN and play-off celebrations, place for the next deadlines, which are coming very quickly.

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Pandemic victories

While Senegal ends its 2022-2023 season on a good start to the defense of its title with the first two days of the CAN 2023 qualifiers. A first victory with a score of 3-1 against Benin, with a hat-trick from Sadio Mané, including two penalty goals and a victory yesterday against Rwanda, in a match which was to take place in Kigali, which due to stadiums not complying with international standards, relocated its match… to Dakar, at the Stade Abdoulaye Wade from Diamniadio. A godsend therefore for Senegal, which chained two home games and avoided a long trip to East Africa. A victory in a match without relief snatched on a new penalty from Sadio Mané after additional time. Three penalty goals in four games, in what is one of the most affordable groups of these qualifiers, what to sound the alarm? “It’s an end-of-season game, I felt my players tired, dull. It’s good to know how to win in difficulty. The boys never gave up, they continued to work. In reality, we were able to have this opportunity which allows us to win 1-0. We are very satisfied from an accounting point of view, ”said Aliou Cissé at a press conference.

Of course, the fact that it is the end of the season is important, when we take into account the heavy schedule that some players have had to face (including, of course, Sadio Mané). This necessarily mitigates the circumstances of the proposed content. But wasn’t this an opportunity to rotate to experiment with new options? The final victory at the CAN, followed by the play-off match for the World Cup allowed Aliou Cissé to be reinforced in these certainties with a game option in 4-3-3, and another in 4-2-3-1 , with Sadio Mané positioned in support of the striker, used in the second leg of the play-off against Egypt. However, the area where the Lions coach still needs to fill gaps is in the alternatives, particularly at left-back and attacking midfielders. The dependence on left-back Saliou Ciss (best side of the CAN), Sadio Mané or Ismaïla Sarr, who has just returned from injury in the semi-finals of the CAN (and who may have paid for it on his return to the club ), has increased and becomes a serious question mark for the Lions. Especially since the start of the past CAN, without relief, also reminds us that there is work to be done in this direction. The balance between the preservation of good group life and the individual performance of each player is essential, each element must have the capacity to respond if the need arises.

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Missed opportunity

With international dates stretching from May 30 to June 14, and their two friendlies being played on June 4 and 7, Senegal had the opportunity to add one or two friendlies in order to better explore the different options with, if necessary, a reorganized team. However, the Federation wanted to organize a friendly match between the dates of June 11 and 13, if possible against a South American team was envisaged, in order to better understand the clash to come against the team from Ecuador. (Nigeria fell 1-0 on Friday June 3). Brazil was considered a potential opponent, but due to the Auriverde’s Asian tour (matches against South Korea and Japan), it was not possible to find the Seleção for a prestigious match at the Diamniadio stadium. . Then, it was finally decided not to organize a friendly match: “The FSF informs the public that it has decided to postpone the organization of an international friendly match during the FIFA window of May 30 – June 14 2022. […] This decision was taken to allow Senegalese international players approached to go on vacation earlier than planned in order to be able to benefit from a suitable rest period before resuming competitions in clubs from September 2022 then with our national team for the preparation and participation of Senegal in the next final tournament of the FIFA World Cup scheduled in Qatar. »

According to the local newspaper RECORD, the FSF was even approached by the Algerian Football Federation for a friendly match, an option which was rejected because, according to a source, Senegal did not see its interest in it. Failing to face a South American team, it would have been possible, for example, to use even an African team to face the Lions, like Gambia which received South Sudan at the Stade Lat Dior de Thiès (1-0 victory) due to the non-approval of the Banjul stadium, or Mali, which has not reserved a date for a friendly match after the playoffs, to organize one more friendly match. An alternative list could thus have been made, allowing executives to go on vacation, and in order to allow certain players to have the opportunity to play and give an overview of their potential, especially since the next grouping, which will take place next September, counting for the 3rd and 4th days of the CAN qualifiers, will be the last before the World Cup. “This preparation for the World Cup, we have not started it yet. That’s the truth… The best thing to do in September to help the five African countries that have qualified is to stop the CAN 2023 qualifiers altogether. And finally be able to give African countries the opportunity to prepare for this World Cup, otherwise we will never be able to prepare it properly! “Aliou Cissé said sorry about this.

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A very important transfer market ahead

With the opening of the summer transfer window, several players lacking club playing time will have decisions to make for next season. Indeed, with a 2022 World Cup taking place exceptionally in the middle of the season, between mid-November and the end of December, the players will not have enough preparation time which the selections usually benefit from at the end of the season. It will therefore be a World Cup where to be in optimal shape, pre-season preparation as well as playing time from the start of the season will be more important factors than usual for the players. The cases of important players of the selection like Abdou Diallo (PSG), Nampalys Mendy (Leicester) or even Bouna Sarr will be essential in the quest to be in the best possible conditions in November. It is up to players who find themselves in this situation to find the right environment to solve this problem, for the good of the selection.

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