We begin our Group H team previews with Senegal, whose squad features several names that Fantasy Premier League managers will already be acquainted with.
Sadio Mane is the headline act, with Cheikhou Kouyate, Mame Biram Diouf and Idrissa Gueye among the other familiar faces in coach Aliou Cisse’s squad.
Senegal would welcome a repeat performance of their one and only previous World Cup appearance in 2002, when they shocked holders France en route to a quarter-final spot.
The Lions of Teranga begin their World Cup campaign with a match against Poland in Moscow on Tuesday 19 June, before an encounter with Japan in Yekaterinburg five days later. Senegal’s final group fixture is against Colombia in Samara on Thursday 28 June.
Road to Qualification
Drawn to play Madagascar, then ranked 122nd in the world, in a two-legged second round tie, Senegal’s CAF qualification campaign almost got off to the most humiliating of starts. Cisse’s side were 2-0 down after 70 minutes of the first leg before late goals from Diouf and Mane rescued a draw for the Senegalese.
Madagascar were despatched 3-0 in the return leg in Dakar, with Senegal progressing to the third and final round of qualification to face South Africa, Cape Verde and Burkina Faso.
A 2-0 opening-day win over Cape Verde preceded a 2-1 defeat to South Africa, a result that was to be annulled by FIFA and the fixture later replayed following the suspension of match referee Joseph Lamptey.
Back-to-back draws with Burkina Faso left Senegal with plenty to do, but a late win over Cape Verde (Diafra Sakho and Cheikh N’Doye on target in the final ten minutes) and Burkina Faso’s 3-1 defeat in South Africa swung the group in Senegal’s favour.
A 2-0 win over Bafana Bafana in the replayed fixture in Polokwane sealed qualification with a match to spare before Senegal won the return meeting 2-1 four days later.
Only Uganda (two), who failed to qualify, conceded fewer goals then Senegal (three) in the third round of CAF qualification, though four other teams (including fellow qualifiers Tunisia, Nigeria and Morocco) scored on more occasions than the Lions of Teranga (ten).
Discounting the invalidated defeat in South Africa, Cisse’s troops remained unbeaten in eight qualification fixtures and kept five clean sheets on the way.
All 23 players called up by Cisse this summer made at least one start during qualifying.
Most starts: Idrissa Gueye (8), Cheikhou Kouyate, Kara Mbodji, Sadio Mane (7), Kalidou Koulibaly (6), Lamine Gassama, Saliou Ciss (5), Khadim N’Diaye (4), Abdoulaye Diallo, Salif Sane, Moussa Wague, Moussa Sow, Badou Ndiaye (3)
Most goals: Diafra Sakho, Cheikh N’Doye, Sadio Mane, Mame Biram Diouf (2)
Most assists: Sadio Mane (5)
Pape Souare and Oumar Niasse were the headline omissions from Cisse’s 23-man squad.
Senegal’s 2-0 win over South Korea in a behind-closed-doors friendly on 11 June was their first victory in five internationals: uninspiring draws with Uzbekistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Luxembourg (Senegal scoring only one goal in those 270 minutes) preceded a 2-1 defeat to Croatia.
Cisse’s formation of choice in qualification was largely 4-3-3/4-5-1, though a 4-2-3-1 and 5-4-1 has been deployed on occasions.
Gueye and Kouyate will provide the steel in the centre of the park, allowing the likes of Mane, Mbaye Niang and Ismaila Sarr the freedom to attack. Kalidou Koulibaly is the rock at the heart of the Senegal defence.
Sadio Mane looks excellent value as a £7.0m-rated midfielder on Fantasy iTeam, given how integral he is to the Senegal attack.
Mane was directly involved in seven (two goals, five assists) of his country’s 15 qualification goals and hit double figures in the Premier League for the fourth successive season this year.
In a team blessed with an abundance of offensive talent, Mane – who will feature either on the flank, as a “number 10” or even as the spearhead of the Senegal frontline, depending on Cisse’s formation – is perhaps the only certain starter in attack.
Mane is priced as a £8.5m forward on McDonald’s FIFA.
Kalidou Koulibaly is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe right now and looks a steal at £5.0m on McDonald’s FIFA, particularly for Senegal’s second group match against a weak-looking Japan side.
Though he has yet to score in international football, the Napoli centre-half registered five Serie A goals from centre-back this season – all from set-piece situations.
Koulibaly is listed at £5.9m on Fantasy iTeam.
The Long Shots
Senegal’s wealth of options in attack means that all other players bar Mane are essentially a punt.
Moussa Konate (£5.9m on Fantasy iTeam | £6.5m on McDonald’s FIFA) has scored two of Senegal’s four friendly goals since qualification was sealed, including a last-minute penalty in the 2-0 win over South Korea.
Konate faces stiff competition from Diafra Sakho (£6.3m on Fantasy iTeam | £5.5m on McDonald’s FIFA) up front, however.
Ismaila Sarr could be a breakout star this summer. The 20-year-old Rennes winger, who can play across the frontline, is listed as a £5.7m midfielder on Fantasy iTeam and a budget £5.0m forward on McDonald’s FIFA and could be an absolute steal if, as predicted, he features in Cisse’s starting XI.
Sarr started all three of Senegal’s May/June friendlies and scored in the 2-1 defeat in Croatia.
The young attacker scored five goals and registered three assists in 22 Ligue I appearances this season.
Mbaye Niang (£6.2m on Fantasy iTeam | £5.5m on McDonald’s FIFA), who could feature on the opposite flank to Sarr, is a slightly more expensive and less attractive attacking proposition.
Niang, who spent part of 2016/17 on loan at Watford, was in and out of the Torino side this season, scoring on four occasions and recording one assist. The 23-year-old winger is yet to score for the national side in seven appearances.
An injury-hit season looks to have cost Kara Mbodji (£5.0m on McDonald’s FIFA) his place at the heart of the defence. If selected, Mbodji is an even bigger aerial threat from set pieces than Koulibaly, having scored five goals from centre-half in 52 international appearances – including the headed winner in Senegal’s final qualifying group fixture against South Africa last November.
Fantasy managers looking for a budget defender will want to consider Youssouf Sabaly (£5.5m on Fantasy iTeam | £4.0m on McDonald’s FIFA). The full-back featured in Senegal’s final two qualifying fixtures and started both of Senegal’s June friendlies against Croatia and South Korea.
Fantasy Football Scout is supporting Fantasy iTeam, a free World Cup game available on a number of mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch and Android. We have an official Fantasy Football Scout League open to UK users only, with a £1000 of Amazon vouchers to give out, split between the top three performers. There’s also the small matter of £10k worth of prizes available in the main competitions: Overall World Championship and Manager of the Gameround.
Click here for details and here to sign up.
Our League name is Fantasy Football Scout and the pin is 1887.
Please note, users must be over 18 and based in the UK to join our league.
World Cup Data
We’re delighted to offer World Cup data as an early addition to our regular season offering to help those playing Fantasy games over the summer.
We’ve secured Opta data, not only for the tournament itself, which begins on June 14 but also from the Qualifying Rounds for Europe and South America and for international friendlies involving the participating nations. This includes all the matches played right up to the tournament kick-off.
Just to stress, this World Cup offering comes packaged with the regular Fantasy Football Scout membership.
Check out this new trailer previewing the World Cup content below…