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Senegal vs Netherlands predictions: Lions of Teranga can make their point
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Simon Barlow
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Aliou Cisse has been shorn of talisman Sadio Mane through injury but Senegal can make a positive start
Aliou Cisse has been shorn of talisman Sadio Mane through injury but Senegal can make a positive start

- Senegal began their AFCON 2022 campaign with two draws in the group stage 
- Netherlands have never lost to African opponents at a World Cup 
- Recommended bet: Back the draw

Senegal will aim to get their third World Cup Finals appearance off to a positive start when they face three-time runners-up the Netherlands in a Group A clash at Al Thumama Stadium.

No African team made it past the group stage in Russia four years ago, but Senegal arrive in Qatar as continental champions and face potentially an easier path to the knockout phase than most.

The Lions of Teranga, who overcame Egypt on penalties in the African Cup of Nations final and beat the Pharaohs by the same means in a World Cup play-off earlier this year, will be without their talismanic forward Sadio Mane.

That means there will be no reunion for the Ballon D'Or runner-up with his former Liverpool teammate Virgil van Dijk, who captains an in-form Dutch squad on a 15-game undefeated run.

Louis van Gaal's selection consequently has a settled look about it apart from in goal where none of his three keepers has more than six international caps and there has been some debate about the identity of his starting choice.

Team news

Mane has been ruled out of the tournament because of a leg injury he picked up while playing for Bayern Munich earlier this month.

The two-time African Footballer of the Year was desperate to feature later in the tournament, but will now undergo an operation instead.

His place in Aliou Cisse's favoured 4-3-3 formation could go to Krepin Diatta with Boulaye Dia set to take the centre-forward role and Ismaila Sarr on the opposite flank.

Nampalys Mendy anchors a midfield that usually features Idrissa Gana Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyate, although Pape Gueye could also feature.

Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo seem set to form the centre-back pairing in front of Edouard Mendy with Youssouf Sabaly and Fode Ballo-Toure the likely full-back choices.

For the Netherlands, the only question marks for the opening game concern Memphis Depay, who has only just returned to training, and which goalkeeper gets the nod from Van Gaal.

The Dutch coach confirmed Depay would not be fit enough to start against Senegal when he named his squad, but suggested the Barcelona attacker might be used as a substitute while adding that former Spurs forward Vincent Janssen would be his likely replacement.

Justin Bijlow, who is the most capped keeper in the squad with six, is the favourite to start in goal — despite being given squad No13 by his coach with 39-year-old Ajax custodian Remko Pasveer getting the No1 shirt.

Jurrien Timber will start alongside Van Dijk and Nathan Ake in the Netherlands' new 3-4-1-2 formation with Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind out wide.

Frenkie de Jong and Steven Berghuis patrol the midfield with Cody Gakpo linking to a strikeforce that will also contain ex-Tottenham man, Steven Bergwijn.

The stats

Louis van Gaal has to plan without key goalscorer Memphis Depay for the Netherlands' opener
Louis van Gaal has to plan without key goalscorer Memphis Depay for the Netherlands' opener

For the first time in history, all five African teams that qualified for the World Cup will be led by coaches from their country.

Although the Netherlands have never faced Senegal before, they have won 12 of their 19 previous encounters with African opposition and lost only twice.

Oranje remain unbeaten against African nations at World Cup level, winning three and drawing one of their four clashes.

Depay was involved in 18 of the 33 goals the Netherlands scored in their qualifying campaign.

Prediction

It will be hard for the Dutch to replace Depay's impressive international strike rate of better than a goal every two games in this opening fixture.

Gakpo has been in good club form while Janssen has struck once in every three internationals, but Senegal's defence is very strong and unlikely to fear what Van Gaal can throw at them.

The Lions of Teranga have never lost to European opponents in 90 minutes at a World Cup Finals, famously beating the reigning champions France in the opening game of the 2002 edition.

Cisse's African champions will no doubt look to keep that record going with a cautious display in a bid to avoid being put into trouble ahead of games against weaker opposition.

Senegal drew two of their three group games on their way to winning the Africa Cup of Nations title earlier this year and a stalemate here, available to back at 27/10 with LiveScore Bet, is a result that may suit both teams in the long term.

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NetherlandsSenegalWorld Cup
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