Action resumes tomorrow in Group A as the hosts Qatar look to redeem themselves against a team with similar fortunes thus far. Both Qatar and Senegal lost their opening games 2-0 to Ecuador and the Netherlands and a loss for either in this tie means an early exit from the competition. This is a big game for Africa and a true chance to get the first three points for the continent, as African champions, you’d expect them to get the required win to remain in the tournament but with the display of fellow Asians Saudi Arabia and Japan, be sure the Qatari team will fight to the final whistle.
Senegal’s coach Alliou Cisse spoke on his team’s loss to the Netherlands and emphasized on the fact that they missed star man Sadio Mane, I don’t think you need your star players to beat Qatar as the quality in this Senegalese team should be enough to dispatch their opponents on the day. They might not be a high scoring side but I assume the difference in quality will tell.
The front three of Krepin Diatta Boulaye Dia and Ismaila Sarrjust need to be a bit calm in front of goal, the talent is there, it’s just the maturity that’s lacking. They’d possibly come up against Boualem Khoukhi, Tarek Salman and Abdelkarim Hassan in the Qatar defense, if they struggled to deal with Enner Valencia on match day 1, then they’d be over stretched by the brilliance of wide men like Sarr and Diatta. There are goals in this Senegalese team, expect them to have more of the ball and create a lot of chances through the wingers while the likes of Idrissa Gueye and Chiekou Kouyate bring their experience to the midfield. I really do not feel the former Asia Champions can match the current African Champions in this one; most people will be disappointed if this game goes the other way.
We cannot underestimate the hosts in this fixture; they already know that another defeat is an early exit so expect them to start like a house on fire. Goal scoring is their major problem even if their 5-man back line can manage to keep a clean sheet and this is why I have this perception that it’d be difficult for the Middle East nation to pick up maximum points in this one. Forwards Almoez Ali Zainalabedeen Abdulla and Akram Afif will not get the supplies that they require, they’d be facing a world class defender in Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly who’d be looking to make an impression as well as club teammate Eduard Mendy in goal.
This is a game Qatar can win only by tactical brilliance of the manager Felix Sanchez, as his side does not necessarily have enough talent to get the result the fans would want, regardless of this painful fact, they do stand a chance as African teams are not reliable especially when they come up against Asia based nations at the world cup.
The key battle for me will be the one involving both skippers, striker Hassan Al-Haydos and Koulibaly, if the striker can use his trickery to bring out the Senegalese defense and destabilize the shape of that back four, they can get some spaces for their wingers to run into with Youssouf Sabaly and Abdou Diallo known as full backs who open pay more attention to attacking than their primary duties.
This game shouldn’t be a difficult one to call, I confidently think Africa will get the big win they didn’t see on match day one, there’s enough quality in the Senegalese front line to hurt Qatar and I don’t see enough in the hosts to convince me that they can reply, however, I think they can score but I’m not sure they can win.
PREDICTION by Charles.E. Ofili
QATAR 1- 3 SENEGAL.