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Senegal World Cup Preview

Posted: Monday May 27, 2002 5:46 PM

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EL HADJI DIOUF
What are your earliest memories of the World Cup?
Oh, I always used to watch the World Cup on television. I watched every football match I could. I don't remember specific games, though. I cannot wait to get on the pitch and play in this great tournament for the first time myself.

Which of your teammates should people look out for at the World Cup?
I don't think people are going to be impressed by any individual on our team -- though we do have great players -- as much as by the whole team. We are so unified, we have such great collective spirit, that it really is true that the team is the star.

What stage do people back home expect you to reach?
I can't say what people expect of us, but I can say that we are going to give them -- and the rest of the world - a huge surprise this summer.

What does surprise mean?
Going as far as we can, which is further than most people expect.

If you don't win the World Cup, who will?
Argentina

Is there too much money in football?
You can't ask me that. I don't like talking about money.

How they line up

Senegal have looked long and hard over the past two years at the differing standard of their players based in Europe and those who play in the domestic League.

Expectedly and understandably, they have come to the conclusion that they are better served by picking players based overseas, and have actively created a team made up exclusively of footballers who earn their living outside Senegal, even if they are not regulars with their clubs. It is a policy that has propelled the team into the top echelons of African soccer and led directly to their qualification for the World Cup finals.

Tony Sylva, a reserve at Monaco in France, was chosen as the best keeper at the African Nations Cup in Mali. He is likely to profit further from his performances by finding more regular work after the World Cup is completed. He took over as Senegal's first choice from Oumar Diallo, who remains the reserve despite his poor ability when dealing with high balls. Senegal did not take a third keeper to Mali, but have to for the World Cup and could plump for Samuel Monin, a journeyman at Scottish club Raith Rovers.

Captain Aliou Cisse plays in a sweeping role behind a flat back four that features Omar Daf, Lamine Diatta, Pape Sarr and Ferdinand Coly, all regulars from the French First Division. Right-back Coly, of Lens, is capable of some inspirational running down the flank to add to the team's attacking options. Defensive cover will come from Alassane Ndour and most likely Habib Beye, who also play in France.

The engine-room in the midfield is Salif Diao, who put in some masterly Nations Cup performances. He is a devastating tackler as well as being a real Trojan going forward. The World Cup is tailor-made for him to attract the attention of some of the leading clubs in Europe. He is supported by Pape Bouba Diop, whose giant frame belies his skill.

Khalilou Fadiga operates on the right-hand side, playing his part defensively but much more effective in attack. He is also Senegal's set-piece master and puts a wicked curl to his crosses and free kicks.

On the bench, Sylvain N'Diaye and Makhtar N'Diaye offer stiff competition for places in the starting lineup. Amdy Faye and former captain Pape Malick Diop could also come into contention.

Henri Camara, formerly with Grasshopper in Switzerland and now at Sedan, partners El Hadji Diouf up front, although Camara is essentially a winger and is often caught out too far wide.

New cap Mamadou Niang could even break into the starting lineup instead alongside Diouf. The reserve strikers should include Monaco teenager Souleymane Camara and 36-year-old Amara Traore, who Metsu says he is taking to the World Cup as a "father figure" for the rest of the squad. Pape Thiaw and Moussa N'Diaye, who both saw some action in Mali, are other options.


 
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