England and Senegal meet for the first time on Sunday – a winner takes all clash in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Senegal lost to the Netherlands in their opening match, but secured a win over Qatar and fought hard to overcome Ecuador to finish runners-up in their group.
England looked leggy and unconvincing against the USA, but recorded comprehensive wins against both Iran and Wales.
Telegraph Sport's scouting report looks into what sort of threat the Lions of Teranga will pose England – and how to counter them.
How they play
With pace, discipline and commitment. Taking the rhythm from their unrelenting fan band, who never stop drumming all game, they do not give their opponents a moment to settle on the ball.
It was a tactic that worked to perfection in their final group game against an Ecuador side who like themselves to disrupt. In Idrissa Gueye, Senegal have an exemplar of a defensive midfielder, for ever getting something in the way of the other team’s constructive effort. But his suspension means they must find a way of replacing that disruptive role. Behind all that, they have a goalkeeper. As Chelsea fans know, it takes a decent shot to beat Edouard Mendy.
Star man: Kalidou Koulibaly
It was not just that the towering Chelsea centre-back scored the winning goal against Ecuador (his first in 66 internationals). It was the way he organised his defence, leading by example, throwing himself into challenges, accepting no quarter. Against Ecuador, his shirt was indicative of his extraordinary effort: within half an hour it was transparent with sweat. He dedicated his goal to Papa Bouba Diop, who scored the winner against France to take Senegal into the last 16 in 2002, and who died two years ago to the day.
Manager: Aliou Cisse
Cisse has been in charge for seven years. After Saudi Arabia’s crisply laundered Herve Renard, he is the coolest coach in the tournament. In his dreadlocks and cap, he stands aloof from the fray on the touchline, not so much chilled as refrigerated. And he has reorganised his game plan perfectly in this World Cup after losing his star player, Sadio Mane, to injury just before things got under way.
“Maybe two-thirds of the world thought we were finished when Sadio was injured. But we did not think that. He is a great player, but we are a great team,” he said.
Without Mane they lack a precise cutting edge. As much as Watford’s Ismaila Sarr has risen to the occasion, as much as he showed his big-game temperament by winning and converting a penalty in the critical win over Ecuador, they look a side who might struggle for goals.
Whatever they might say publicly, the entire Senegal operation will know they would have had much more chance of beating England with Mane in their midst.
Over the past couple of seasons they have excelled in sudden-death football. First they beat Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations final in February (and England be warned, they did it on penalties). They also beat Mohamed Salah’s lot in what was effectively a sudden-death knockout to qualify for Qatar in March.
Indeed, knowing they had to win against Ecuador, Cisse reckoned, brought out the best in his side. “A win we stay, a draw we go home. And we are not going home,” he said of their final group game. They are not phased by matches of this nature.
Will they fancy taking on England?
Their coach was playing it down, but the simple answer is: yes. Cisse will be aware that England do not blossom when hassled and harried. He will send his midfield out with specific instruction to hound. And players such as Koulibaly, Gueye and the goalkeeper Mendy will be more than familiar with the England team: they play against their constituent parts every week in the Premier League.
Beating England would place this team on the same level as the side who beat France in South Korea in 2002. In Senegal, immortality awaits.