Senegal boss Aliou Cisse sparked intrigue on the eve of Sunday’s clash with England by pulling out of his pre-match media duties, claiming he was unwell with a fever and unable to take training for two days.
‘He has been sick for a couple of days,’ said assistant manager Regis Bogaert. ‘He had a temperature so we had to be careful. He let us take charge of training yesterday with his instructions.
‘Hopefully, he will be able to be on the bench. We are sure he will be there with the team.’
Senegal manager Aliou Cisse is a doubt to be on the touchline for Sunday’s last-16 clash
Assistant manager Regis Bogaert (left) took the press conference with third-choice keeper Alfred Gomis (right) as Cisse missed the meeting with the media due to ‘sickness’
Cisse is a legend of Senegalese football. He was captain of the Lions of Teranga in 2002 when they reached the World Cup quarter finals. As manager since 2015, he has qualified for successive World Cup tournaments and led them to their first Africa Cup of Nations title in February.
For them to be without the 46-year-old on the touchline against England would be a huge blow for the African champions. FIFA have recommended all teams follow a Covid testing programme but it is not mandatory.
‘I know him very well and knew him as a player,’ said Bogaert, a 61-year-old Frenchman who managed Senegal for two years from 2012. ‘I have worked for years as his assistant. We talk a lot and try to implement the project he launched.
‘He has tremendous energy. When he knows where he wants to go, he gives everything and he has the capacity to learn and apply the lessons. He always tells you directly what’s in his mind. He is frank and honest and players appreciate that.
‘He has already left mark on the Senegal team, he has been in the role since 2015 and not many international coaches have been in the role for that long.’
Bogaert revealed that Senegal coach Cisse missed their training session on Friday
Gomis spoke to the media though it’s extremely unlikely he’ll start over Edouard Mendy
Perhaps there is an element of mind games at play regarding Cisse’s absence. Senegal have certainly not embraced their media relations during this tournament.
They were fined more than £8,500 by FIFA for not providing a player for the official press conference ahead of the game against Ecuador. This time, they sent third-choice goalkeeper Alfred Gomis to field questions alongside Bogaert.
At a media event on Thursday, there were four squad players, none of them expected to start on Sunday. It is as though Cisse and his first team players have taken themselves out of the spotlight to train their focus purely on England.
There is no sense of anxiety around the camp. Moreover a quiet confidence is emanating from within, encouraged by the progressive performances of other African nations. Morocco beat Belgium to top their group. Tunisia beat France and Cameroon beat Brazil despite failing to progress to the last 16.
England will play either France or Poland in the quarter-finals of the World Cup if they progress
‘It’s a trend we’ve seen for some time,’ said Bogaert. ‘And we’ll see it more. In 2018, we heard criticism because there were no African teams in second round. Now there are two and two more nearly made it. We’ve seen progress.
‘I’ve been in Africa for a long time now and it’s down to the ability of teams to create their own African identity, with African coaches. I’m convinced in not too long now, in the near future, African teams will go very, very far in World Cups. African teams need to be ambitious.
‘Four years ago, we were knocked out by yellow cards so we weren’t far away. Since then, the team has grown. We lost a final and won a final. We are more mature and that’s important at international level. We are capable of going eye-to-eye with anybody.’
Senegal’s experience is depleted by the absence of Sadio Mane who was ruled out of the World Cup and Idrissa Gane Gueye (pictured) who misses the game through suspension
Senegal’s experience is depleted by the absence of Sadio Mane who was ruled out of the World Cup by injury. They will also be without 99-cap Idrissa Gana Gueye, who is suspended against England, and 84-cap Cheikhou Kouyate, who is not expected to be fit.
Nampalys Mendy of Leicester is back in training after a fitness issue and tipped to come in for Everton’s Gana Gueye.
‘Beating England would be a tremendous achievement,’ said Bogaert. ‘For all our players, the objective is to show we can play one of the top five in the world, and to beat a team like that sends a strong message of the progress we have made.
‘Our objective is to get through to the next round. Trying to keep relaxed and calm as long as possible.’
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