Senegal begins life without Sadio Mane when they take on the Netherlands in Group A of the 2022 World Cup on Monday.
In Al Thumama, Qatar, the game will begin at 4 PM, exactly 24 hours after the hosts lost to Ecuador on Sunday.
Sadio Mane of Bayern Munich has been ruled out of the World Cup due to a fibula injury he suffered earlier this month against Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, dealing Senegal a severe blow before the tournament has even started.
The problem will now force head coach Aliou Cisse to change his tactical plan. At first, Cisse had thought that his top player would just be sidelined for the first few games for the Lions of Teranga but that isn’t the case.
Cisse’s team has kept six clean sheets in their past eight competitive games, which has proven to be the foundation of their recent AFCON win and World Cup qualification, Cisse’s team is typically difficult to break down.
As they attempt to advance to the knockout rounds for just the second time in their history, the 46-year-old will almost surely be aiming for his men to keep things tight against the Netherlands before moving on to more winnable matches against Qatar and Ecuador.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands is entering the World Cup in great shape under the leadership of Louis van Gaal after making it to their second consecutive UEFA Nations League final.
Starting strong against Senegal on Monday will be important in order to maintain high morale, with van Gaal perhaps emboldened to go for the jugular with the aforementioned absence of Mane on the opposition team sheet.
Despite failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Netherlands did make it all the way to the semifinals in 2014 under the guidance of Louis van Gaal, ultimately falling to Argentina in a penalty shootout following a goalless draw over 120 minutes.
Despite lacking a sprinkling of star individual quality compared to their past close calls, there is rising optimism that this could be their year. They are often recognized as the biggest footballing nation never to win the World Cup after losing three finals in 1974, 1978, and 2010.
It will be crucial to get off to a solid start against Senegal on Monday in order to keep spirits high, with van Gaal potentially feeling more confident to go for the kill given the aforementioned lack of Mane on the opposing team sheet.