The big star of Senegal is Bayern Munich's attacking player Sadio Mané. But of all people, he was injured before the World Cup - and is now actually out of the tournament in Qatar. Healing is not going as well as the association had hoped.
Sadio Mane had hoped until the last second - and with him all of Senegal. But four days before the start of the World Cup for the African champions, team doctor Manuel Afonso announced the sad news. The MRT on Thursday in Munich showed that "the development is not as favorable as we had imagined". The offensive star of FC Bayern missed the World Cup in Qatar. The team, which some observers considered secret favorites, must now do without their leader. In Group A, Senegal meet hosts Qatar (November 25) and Ecuador (November 29) in addition to title contenders Netherlands.
National coach Aliou Cisse initially called Mane into his squad despite his injury to his right fibula head. Cisse said last week that "everything necessary will be done to allow Sadio to recover". At least for the further course of the tournament after the opening game against the Netherlands next Monday, Cisse was "really optimistic" - instead, according to team doctor Afonso, an operation is now probably necessary.
Mane (30) is a folk hero in Senegal, having scored 33 goals and assisted 20 more in 92 international matches. In February he led his country to their first ever African Cup of Nations triumph and then to the World Cup in March. After Mane's injury, even President Macky Sall worried about the football star. "Sadio, heart of a lion! My whole heart is with you," wrote Sall: "God bless you!"
Mane, who joined FC Bayern from Liverpool in the summer, is not the only exceptional footballer who will be missing in Qatar. World champions France in particular have to do without top stars. N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba are among them - and recently Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku. The German team of national coach Hansi Flick is missing Nkunku's club colleague Timo Werner, record world champions Brazil flew into the desert without Philippe Coutinho. Argentina has to make up for the short-term absence of former Stuttgart player Nicolas Gonzalez.
Other players are injured or have just recovered, including Canada's Alphonso Davies, South Korea's hopeful Heung-Min Son, France's world footballer Karim Benzema and Belgium's striker Romelu Lukaku. The fear of injuries also accompanied the last preparatory games. "Everyone had a little bit in the back of their minds about coming out of the game healthy," said Flick after the tough 1-0 win against Oman on Wednesday.