A 3-1 win over Qatar got them back on track and set up an epic final game against Ecuador. It was a match that Senegal had to win to qualify, so the burden was on them to make something happen. Ismailia Sarr’s penalty just before the half-time break was cancelled out by Moises Caicedo with 23 minutes remaining. The reigning AFCON champions responded immediately, however, with Kalidou Koulibaly scoring in the 70th minute. Senegal held on to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
They will face England without Everton’s Idrissa Gueye with the midfielder suspended after picking up two yellow cards in his three group-stage outings. It won’t be each for Cisse’s side, but none of the games at this stage of the tournament are.
England will have to be wary of their opponents heading into this game. They struggled with the directness and the speed of the USA team in the draw and Senegal possesses players who pose a similar threat. They may be without Mane but they can still call upon the likes of Iliman Ndiaye, Bamba Dieng, Nicolas Jackson, Krepin Diatta, Boulaye Dia and Watford winger Sarr.
Senegal will likely adopt a mid-block press and look to lure the opposition onto them before springing a counter-attack. The only time Cisse’s men had more of the ball in any of their group-stage matches was against Qatar. Against the Dutch, they had 46% of the possession, against Ecuador it was 43%. Expect a similar figure, if not less, against England.
If John Stones or Harry Maguire are left isolated against any of those forwards and have to compete in a foot race, it could be problematic, to say the least. Declan Rice will be vital in ensuring these transitional moments don’t result in a dangerous phase of play for the African champions.