While locals are comparing the current Senegal squad with the 2002 generation that pulled off a shock at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, coach Aliou Cisse, who captained that team 16 years ago, keeps reiterating that they are different players and might not necessarily have the same fate at the World Cup.
However, Senegal football federation president Augustin Senghor, who has been travelling with the Teranga Lions since they began preparations for the Mundial, says such comparison is inevitable since Russia 2018 will be the nation’s second experience at the World Cup.
“We still have links to the 2002 generation, since the coach Aliou Cisse was part of that group while some members of his current staff like Omar Daf, Tony Silva and Lamine Diatta also played that year,” Senghor told Le Monde on Monday.
“They are not just there to coach but to transfer their experience to the younger generation. They have played at the World Cup. They know how it works. We at the Federation see this bond as something very important.”
Senegal won only one of their three test matches ahead of the World Cup. After a goalless draw against Luxembourg, they lost 2-1 to Croatia, before wrapping up with a 2-0 win over South Korea in Austria on Monday.
Despite criticisms from local pundits, who keep stressing that the team is not fully prepared for the tournament in Russia, Senghor is eyeing a passage to the knockout stage from Group H which also houses the likes of Colombia, Poland and Japan.
“Our objective is clear. We want to be among the two top teams of the group in order to qualify automatically to the next round,” he said.
According to him, Senegal president Macky Sall will be on vacation during the World Cup and will be flying to Russia to watch the Lions, which critics say could put unhealthy pressure on the players.
“Our president wants Senegal to leave a positive image at the World Cup, that’s all. He knows Senegal are not among the favourites but believes that our team, with all the talent in there, is not going to a pushover for other sides. We want to prove that we are good too. People are counting on the team back home.”
Senegal will open their campaign against Poland in Moscow on June 19.