Football family saddened by Mane’s absence

 Senegal manager Aliou Cisse says the football fam­ily are ‘saddened’ by Sadio Mane’s absence but his side will “rise to the challenge” at the World Cup.

The African champions open their campaign against Group A opponents the Netherlands today at 16:00 GMT.

Bayern Munich forward Mane will miss the tournament due to a knee injury.

“We are not just talking about Senegalese people but people around the world and the whole football family is saddened,” said Cisse.

“He represents the African continent as well as Senegal,” he added. “I have received phone calls from around the world.

“All coaches build teams around their best player that is also the case for us. We have a strong team as well, with experienced and young players ready to rise to the challenge.”

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk said he spoke to his former Liverpool team-mate Mane.

“As a friend I just wanted to know how he was. I feel sad for him. I know how hard he worked for this and he wants to be import­ant for Senegal,” he added.

“He has been important in the last few years especially. It is tough. Obviously he will be a big miss for them. Hopefully we can benefit a little bit from that.”

Monaco winger Krepin Diatta and Marseille’s Bamba Dieng are in line to replace Mane, but RB Leipzig’s Abdou Diallo may miss out with a knee issue.

The Dutch are without forward Memphis Depay, who scored 12 goals in World Cup qualifying, with a hamstring injury.

Defender Denzel Dumfries is a doubt, while midfielder Marten de Roon has struggled with a back issue.

Mane is out of the tournament which is a huge blow to Senegal. They won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year but they struggled to score goals, even with him in the team.

Senegal are defensively strong and don’t concede many either, but that lack of cutting edge might cost them if they get to the knock­out stages.

I’m very confident the Nether­lands will reach the last 16 though, and I think they could surprise a few people at this tournament.

It sounds odd saying the Dutch are dark horses here because they traditionally have such a strong international side, but I am not so sure that has been the case in recent years.

You look through this team though, and they have so many talented players. If they click, they can go far – and they should get off to a winning start here. –BBC

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