The African side look in much better shape than the tournament hosts heading into this vital match
Qatar and Senegal are out to keep their World Cup dreams alive when they go head-to-head on Friday.
Both teams suffered defeats in their opening games of the competition, with Qatar going 2-0 down to Ecuador before Senegal were bested by the same scoreline against Netherlands.
Qatar let themselves down massively in their clash with Ecuador on Sunday which kicked off the tournament, falling to a 2-0 loss to the South American side.
Getting thoroughly outplayed by CONMEBOL’s weakest qualified side gave a true indication of their stature on the global stage, but luckily for them, they still have time to prove people’s perceptions wrong.
However, the facts will say that Qatar are the first host nation in World Cup history to lose their opening fixture.
Not only that, the Maroons are also the first hosts not to have shot on target in a match at the finals since the USA failed to do so in their last 16 defeat to Brazil in 1994.
Manager Felix Sanchez claimed his side were “nervous”, and their performance did represent the look of a side who froze on the big occasion.
The fact that they were seemingly incapable of doing the basics such as passing and pressing suggests it was some sort of mentality issue, because this was a side that won the Asian Cup in 2019.
They were top scorers in that competition and repeated the feat at the 2021 Gold Cup which they were invited to take part in, but attacking duo Almoez Ali and Akram Afif were bystanders in the game with Ecuador.
Another poor defeat here will only enhance the arguments against them being hosts in a footballing sense, as they have yet to show themselves as worthy of competing at this level.
Meanwhile, while suffering the same fate as the hosts, Senegal had a lot to be impressed with in their performance against the Netherlands on Monday.
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Their build up play in attack was easy on the eye and, for the most part, they were solid defensively.
However, two huge errors from Edouard Mendy cost the Lions of Teranga heavily as they also fell to a 2-0 defeat.
Cody Gakpo’s 84th-minute header for the opening goal was the first shot on target the Dutch had in the match, which again illustrates how well Senegal did to stifle them for much of the game.
A first clean sheet in nine World Cup finals matches looks more likely for Senegal here though, given the opposition they will be facing.
Their defensive record in Africa has been impressive, as they conceded just twice on their way to Africa Cup of Nations glory at the start of the year and let in just three in six games afterwards before this tournament.
However, to claim a vital three points, they will need to find a clinical edge, and not having Sadio Mane poses a huge dilemma for Aliou Cisse’s side.
Even when Mane was fit, Cisse struggled to settle on a regular starting striker, as their top scorer from qualifying, Famara Diedhiou, has had injury troubles this year.
Qatar versus Senegal team news
The only injury concern for the host nation is one from pre-tournament as midfielder Abdullah Al-Ahrak misses out while recovering from his ACL tear.
Star striker Sadio Mane was ruled out of the tournament for Senegal — a massive blow. The Lions of Teranga will be sweating the fitness of midfielder Chiekhou Kouyate who came off injured in the opener against the Netherlands. Abou Diallo was also struggling for fitness in the opening match, but reportedly returned to training after suffering cramps in the match.
Qatar vs Senegal prediction
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It may well be deja vu as Qatar will again find themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 defeat. After being soundly beaten by a similar side, the hosts are now staring down a difficult task in the second group match as well.
Qatar managed just 0.32 xG against Ecuador on five total shots, while the South Americans put up just one more shot but three times the expected goals tally. So, while Qatar hardly managed much attacking output, they also settled for poor shots. Against Kalidou Koulibaly and company, it won’t get any easier.
The Senegal attack was neutered by the loss of Sadio Mane, but his replacements are talented enough to put Qatar to the sword.