DAKAR, Senegal — Senegal named its final 23-man squad for the World Cup on Thursday, with Liverpool forward Sadio Mane leading a group that includes key defender Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham.

Coach Aliou Cisse, captain of the 2002 team that reached the quarterfinals in the country’s only previous World Cup appearance, has gambled on the fitness of Monaco winger Keita Balde and Anderlecht defender Kara Mbodji.

Balde last played on April 7 while Mbodji missed most of this season with a knee problem but has recently returned to training.

The 20-year-old Rennes winger Ismaila Sarr also made the squad.

The midfield is likely to have an English league look with Kouyate, Idrissa Gueye of Everton, Cheikh Ndoye of Birmingham and Pape Alioune Ndiaye of Stoke selected.

Much of Senegal’s hopes rest with the 26-year-old Mane, who has been in sizzling form with 10 goals in 29 appearances in the Premier League.

Although it’s only Senegal’s second World Cup appearance, there is plenty of expectation with the squad having been drawn with Poland, Japan and Colombia in Group H at the finals in Russia.

Cisse’s men will have training sessions next week at a resort town outside Dakar before moving camp to Vittel, a city in northeast France.

Mane will join up late as Liverpool prepare for the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 26.

Senegal has pre-World Cup friendlies scheduled against Luxembourg (May 31), Croatia (June 8) and South Korea (June 11).

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Source:: Sportsnet.ca

      

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