The scene is set as Netherlands return to the World Cup stage after missing out on the action back in 2018 as they prepare to face African Cup of Nations champions Senegal.
The Dutch national team were last in a World Cup back in 2014 during Louis van Gaal’s first stint with notable performances from Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. Eight managerial changes later and Oranje go back to the former Barcelona manager in 2021 – five years after his sacking at Manchester United.
Senegal enter only their third World Cup campaign having previously qualified in 2002 and 2018. The Lions of Teranga will fancy their chances to qualify to the Round of 16 and try to equal their best record in the competition at the quarter-finals – something they achieved the first time they qualified. However, with no Sadio Mane in the team, head coach Aliou Cisse has a difficult job on his hands in the group stages.
Results in the last five matches in all competitions
Senegal will be left with a headache to find a plan B quickly after it was confirmed Mane will not take part in this winter’s tournament. The former Liverpool forward suffered a leg injury for Bayern Munich before going on international duty which originally meant he was going to miss the first few matches but now the 30-year-old will play no part. The likes of Nicolas Jackson, Iliman Ndiaye, Krepin Diatta and Bamba Dieng will all be fighting for a spot on the left flank in his absence.
Meanwhile, Netherlands will be without attacker Memphis Depay who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. The Barcelona man managed 12 goals during the World Cup qualifying round and some tipped him as an outside contender for the Golden Boot but has not played a single minute since sustaining the injury against Poland back in September. Van Gaal will also need to address the gap left by Denzel Dumfries as the defender looks set to miss out as a precaution after coming off of Inter Milan’s Serie A clash against Atalanta.
GBeNeFN | Tom Phillips