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2018 World Cup team preview: Senegal

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Getting to know Senegal: Competing in just their second World Cup in history, Senegal will win plenty of fans for their fast, attacking play and have the potential to repeat their heroics from the 2002 World Cup.

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Senegal eased through qualifying in Africa after plenty of years of underperforming and this current crop of players have a wealth of experienced across Europe’s top leagues which they will need to use just to get out of a tough group. For more on Senegal’s history, click here.

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What group are they in? Group H is a very even group where all four teams could easily finish top. Japan are perhaps the underdogs but Poland, Colombia and Senegal are all fancied to finish atop the table. Poland v Senegal in the opener should be a cracker.

Game schedule – Group H – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Tuesday, June 19: Poland v Senegal, Moscow (Spartak) 11am, ET
Sunday, June 24: Japan v Senegal, Ekaterinburg 11am, ET
Thursday, June 28: Senegal v Colombia, Samara 10am, ET


Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

–— N’Diaye —–

— Sabaly —— Koulibaly — Sane  —- Gassama — 

—- Kouyate — Gueye —- N’Diaye —–

— Mane  — Sow — Balde —


Star player: Sadio Mane – The Liverpool star is Senegal’s main hope this summer and Mane has the speed and finishing ability to be a hero at the World Cup. With 33 goals in 73 games for Liverpool over the past two seasons, he has delivered the goods and had a fine 2017/18 which went a little unnoticed given Mohamed Salah‘s heroics. The speedster isn’t always the most clinical and that’s been the case for Senegal. With plenty of expectation on his shoulders in his homeland, Mane has scored just 14 goals in 49 games for The Lions of Teranga.

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Manager: Aliou Cisse – The captain during Senegal’s only other trip to the World Cup finals, Cisse has brought back that spirit of 2002 to this current squad. A no-nonsense character as a player and coach, Cisse has added steel to this talented Senegal side since he took charge in 2015 following a spell in charge of Senegal’s youth teams. Going forward they have so many attacking options but they’ve improved drastically in defense, conceding just three times in six games during the final round of World Cup qualifying in Africa.


Secret weapon: Ismaila Sarr – Just 20 years old, the Rennes winger scored against Croatia in a recent friendly and he could be a wildcard with his incredible speed. With five goals in 24 Ligue 1 games for Rennes in 2017/18, Sarr’s $22 million move was successful as they finished fifth in the league and qualified for the Europa League group stage. Think of a slightly more languid Mane and that is Sarr.


Prediction: They have the ability to go far and their squad is stacked with players from across the top-flight in England, Germany and France. Senegal may well spring the surprise of the tournament, just like they did in 2002, and another quarterfinal berth could be on the way if they can navigate a tricky group then stun Belgium or England in the last 16. If Mane delivers the goals they are solid enough to grind out results.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

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There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.