Senegal has confirmed that Sadio Mane won’t be available for the nation’s opening World Cup matches.
It was widely believed and reported that Mane will miss the tournament altogether after he picked up an injury in Bayern Munich’s penultimate match before the winter break.
However, the forward was included in the squad anyway in the hope that he would recover in time to play some part in Qatar.
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That may well be the case if they get beyond the group stages, but it has been confirmed that he won’t be fit to play in their opening World Cup matches.
“We will have to rely on playing the first games without Sadio and win without Sadio because we have 25 players apart from Sadio,” said Senegal federation board member Abdoulaye Sow.
“No one would have wanted it, but that’s what’s happened to us.”
That means that Mane will definitely be unavailable for Senegal’s first, and most difficult, group stage match against the Netherlands and presumably for the second game against Qatar too.
If all of the games go as expected, the team’s final match against Ecuador could well be the one that determines whether they advance to the round of 16 or not, so it’s likely they’ll try and play Mane in that crucial clash.
While they do have other players in the squad that play at a top level, Mane is undoubtedly their star man and their biggest threat going forward – without him, they’re considerably weaker and so will be trying to get him fit as soon as possible.