Former French Ligue 1 star and current Senegal national team coach Aliou Cisse has admitted to the difficulties of selecting his squad for the upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The former Senegalese international has had a prestigious career as a player having plied his trade all over the world (most particularly in the French Ligue 1 with PSG) and for his country from 1999 to 2005, but his most difficult decision to date was the selection of his squad for the upcoming World Cup.
Cisse named his quad for the tournament on Friday with the likes of Liverpool's Sadio Mane, Everton's Idrissa Gueye and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly headlining the selection.
However, there were some notably exclusions as well with Crystal Palace defender Pape Souare, striker Oumar Niasse, Nantes striker Santy Ngom, Newcastle United’s Mohamed Diame, Saint-Etienne left-back Cheikh Mbengue, La Liga side Eibar’s Pape Kouly Diopand and Cardiff City star Armand Traore missing out.
Cisse, though, admits to having sleepless nights when making the selection but has reverently defended his choices.
“It is difficult selecting the squad, but I have to make choices,” said Cisse.
“Santy is a young player I took into the team and at the time everyone was wondering who he was. But today, compared to Sadio Mané or Mbaye Niang, he is a boy who plays little at his club.”
Senegal return to the World Cup for the first time since 2002 after having missed three editions of the global football showpiece.
The Lions of Teranga were drawn alongside Poland, Japan and Colombia in Group H, and have an excellent opportunity to reach the knockout stage of the competition should all go well.
Cisse will be one of the only two native African coaches in Russia together with Tunisia’s Nabil Maaloul.
Senegal's 2018 World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Rennes, France), Alfred Gomis (SPAL, Italy), Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya, Guinea)
Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes, France), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli, Italy), Kara Mbodii (Anderlecht, Belgium), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux, France), Salif Sane (Hannover, Germany), Moussa Wague (Eupen, Belgium)
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye (Everton, England), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United, England), Alfred Ndiaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City, England), Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham City, England), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes, France)
Forwards: Keita Balde (Monaco, France), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City, England), Moussa Konate (Amiens, France), Sadio Mane (Liverpool, England), Mbaye Niang (Torino, Italy), Diafra Sakho (Rennes, France), Moussa Sow (Bursaspor, Turkey)