Senegal's all-time leading goalscorer Sadio Mane has said that Nigeria's absence from the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a big blow to African football.
Mane and his Teranga Lions teammates are preparing to take on Ecuador, The Netherlands and host nation Qatar come November 21 for the opportunity to be the first African nation to win the World Cup. They will first set their sights on beating the record set by the team that was captained by their current manager Aliou Cisse when they got to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan.
Meanwhile, they sit comfortably on top of the rankings in Africa as the top-rated team and also in 18th place in the FIFA world rankings, the highest that any African team has finished since Ghana finished in 14th place in 2008.
Mane, who is currently preparing for pre-season with his new club Bayern Munich after signing for the Bavarians recently from Liverpool, was speaking about African representation at the upcoming global showpiece and mentioned how much Africa would have benefited if Nigeria had made the finals in Qatar.
Mane said: “You get people asking why [Mohamed] Salah is not going to be at the World Cup. Egypt has a very strong team, we were lucky to deny them qualification. What about Cote d'Ivoire? Nigeria with their arrays of star players and entertaining brand of football will not be at the World Cup.
“That's a blow to the continent. We have an ever-improving continent when it comes to football. It's why you see players from Africa in top teams. It's tough to win games these days. You have to be at your best all the time.”
Nigeria scaled through the African qualifiers without much hassle but fell to Ghana over two legs in March. A 0-0 draw in Kumasi, Ghana and a 1-1 draw in Abuja, Nigeria saw the Super Eagles lose out on the ticket on away goals.
The team is currently undergoing restructuring ahead of the 2023 African Cup of Nations in Cote d'Ivoire, where Senegal will be expected to defend their 2021 victory in Cameroon last January.
Meanwhile, Africa's representatives at the Mundial alongside Senegal will be Morocco, Ghana, Cameroon and Tunisia. Morocco is in Group F alongside Belgium, Canada and Croatia. Ghana will take on Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H. Cameroon are in Group G with Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia, while Tunisia will battle France, Denmark and Australia in Group D.
This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago