Friday Nov 17, 2023. 15:19
As the reigning champions of Africa, Senegal will get their 2026 FIFA World Cup preparations underway this week, when they will take on South Sudan at the Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 9pm (SA, GMT+2).
Senegal are deemed to be strong favourites to make it out of Group B, having been pitted alongside DR Congo, Sudan, Togo, South Sudan and Mauritania for the upcoming qualifying campaign.
Lions of Teranga coach Aliou Cisse named a star-studded line-up for the matches against South Sudan and Togo, with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mane and Nicolas Jackson in-line to feature for their nation.
Senegal go into their next set of qualifiers on the back of two international friendlies during the October break, where they recorded a 1-0 defeat against Algeria, before bagging a 1-0 win over Cameroon in the match thereafter.
As a major talking point ahead of the tie against South Sudan, FIFA ordered Senegal to play the game behind closed doors, which did not sit well with Cisse.
Following crowd interruptions during Senegal’s narrow victory over Egypt in their final 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier last year, FIFA ruled that the upcoming match commence without spectators at Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade on Saturday.
“This is not normal. It must be remembered that there were facts prior to these incidents which happened during the first leg against Egypt, even if I do not condone them,” said Cisse.
“But I think the sanction is heavy compared to the facts. No player was in danger during this meeting. Therefore, this sanction is not justified.
“We would like to have our supporters when we play at home. Senegalese supporters are disciplined and this has been demonstrated everywhere. During the 2018 World Cup, we won the FIFA Fair Play Award. During the last African Cup, we saw the discipline of our supporters.
“There were incidents during the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Egypt which earned us this sanction,” Cisse added.
In having another crack at qualifying for a major tournament, South Sudan will be hoping to put their recent Africa Cup of Nations bid behind them.
South Sudan finished bottom of Group G and ended their campaign on a run of three consecutive defeats, as they missed out on qualifying for the showpiece which is set to take place in Côte d’Ivoire next year.
Also, Bright Stars’ form sheet has not made for a good reading ahead of their World Cup bid, recording two wins and three defeats in their last five matches in all competitions.
As one of the lowest ranked nations in qualifying, South Sudan have never made it to a World Cup finals competition.