Nigeria’s international friendly with Senegal on June 16 has received added prominence, as latest information out of Dakar indicates that The Teranga Lions will be counting on the Super Eagles to help them spot their best central defence pairing for the Africa Cup of Nations.
The match between both West African sides, billed to Ismailia Stadium in Egypt, had all along been dubbed a high-profile fixture, considering that Senegal are the continent’s top ranked team, while Nigeria are third on the FIFA logs, such that it is bound to be a real thriller to behold.
However, the game has now received added value, with Senegal’s coach, Aliou Cisse admitting he needs to pick his top-two stoppers from for defenders available to him, as he announced his provisional squad of 25 players for AFCON 2019 over the weekend.
Heading into the pre-AFCON spectacle and the competition itself, Cisse has retained 16 of the players he took the World Cup last year, minus top defender, Kara Mbodji, who was at Russia 2018 but did not play.
The 29-year-old has had a difficult season after a loan spell in France did not go to plan and saw him return to his Belgian side Anderlecht, but Mbodji’s struggles have left him out of Cisse’s plans for AFCON 2019, thereby leaving the coach hunting for the best two stoppers in his first 11 at the continental soccer showpiece.
He will now be counting on the June 16 friendly against the Eagles to help him out, as Cisse pointed out that he has four other defenders in contention to take over Mbodji’s position.
Another absentee is Anger of France midfielder, Cheikh Ndoye, who is out with ligament damage, while former West Ham United attacker, Diafra Sakho, Mame Biram Diouf and Adama Mbengue are all also not listed.
However, the Eagles will feel Senegal’s fury in order departments, as Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, AS Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace, Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye, Inter Milan forward Keita Balde all make the list.
Senegal, who are in Group C, will start their AFCON 2019 campaign versus Emmanuel Amuneke’s Tanzania on June 23, before games against Algeria and Kenya on June 27 and July 1 respectively, ahead of which Cisse believes playing Nigeria will give them very useful tips.
Cisse said: “As with all teams the absentees allow us to test other players and Salif Sane has established himself now with Kalidou Koulibaly.
“Cheikhou Kouyate and Pape Abdou Cissa have shown very great things. So I find myself today with four central defenders for so the competition is tough.
“Each one is able to replace the other and everyone is able to play. I think they also deserve their selections because they have competed all season.”