African champions Senegal will be aiming to maintain their 100 percent record in their first Group games at the FIFA World Cup when they face Netherlands at the Al Thumama Sports Stadium on Monday, November 21. Senegal have never lost their first group game in World Cup as they defeated then defending champions France 1-0 in 2002 and also beat Poland 2-1 in 2018. In all, Senegal are yet to lose against a European country in a World Cup Group stage as they boast of two wins and one draw in three games. Netherlands, on the other hand, have faced African opposition four times in the history of the World Cup and have won twice against Cote D’Ivoire and Cameroon and with the other two ending in a draw. The Netherlands is a big name in World football. Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has already tipped them as title contenders though he admits his charges will not be overshadowed by their big names. The Teranga Lions have already lost their talisman and skipper Sadio Mane through injury. His absence dealt a huge blow for Senegal but midfielder Nampalys Mendy is confident they can cope. “It is true the absence of Mane will harm us enormously because he is an important player. We have players of great quality too, so we are confident in our quality, and will do everything to show it.” Mendy told the media ahead of the game. The Dutch return to World Cup action after they missed out a place in the 2018 edition in Russia as they failed to qualify. “Orange” are now a rejuvenated side and they are hoping to reclaim their spot among the elites in the Mundial. Key players to watch Virgil van Dijk: The towering Liverpool central defender is the skipper of the Netherlands national team. Virgil will be appearing in his first ever FIFA World Cup and will hope to make a big impact. At club level, he has been excellent for Liverpool winning the Champions League and the EPL trophy. He will be looking forward to picking his first laurel in the senior team. He has been capped 49 times by the Dutch scoring 6 goals since making his senior debut in 2015. Memphis Depay: The attacker was born to a Ghanaian father Dennis Depay and a Dutch mother in the city of Moordrecht on February 13, 1994. He went through all the Dutch junior national teams before making his senior appearances in 2013. Depay has gone on to play 81 games scoring 42 goals. Despite struggling to get adequate playing time at club level at FC Barcelona where he has played just two La Liga games this season, Depay remains the Netherlands’ key player in attack. Kalidou Koulibaly: Born in France, the aggressive center-back decided to represente Senegal in 2015 and has so far earned 64 caps. The Chelsea defender was instrumental as the Teranga Lions won the AFCON for the first time in 2022. In Koulibaly, Senegal have a commander at the back who will be able to direct the other players. Edouard Mendy: Born in Montivilliers, France on March 1, 1992 to a Senegalese mother and a father from Guinea Bissau, the Chelsea shot stopper decided to play for the Teranga Lions in 2018. He previously played one friendly game for Guinea Bissau in November, 2016 to honor his sick father. On any good day, Mendy is among the most difficult goalkeepers to beat as he exhibited in Chelsea’s 2020/21 Champions League winning campaign. If Mendy put in an impressive form, he is definitely going to be the deciding factor against the Dutch. Coaches and tactics The Netherlands head coach Louis Van Gaal needs no introduction in world football. The 71-year-old tactician is among the best and most experienced coaches in the dugout since starting professional coaching in December 1986. Van Gaal is having his third spell with the Dutch senior national team with his first appointment being on July 7, 2000. His preferred formation is 4:3:3 and that is what he uses at club level. With this, his three attackers change positions in the course of the game and each of them can score. He returns to the World Cup with a country that he inspired to the 2010 World Cup final of in South Africa, when Spain beat them 1-0 after extra time. Aliou Cisse 20 years ago in Japan/South Korea, Cisse led Senegal to the quarter finals of the World Cup as captain. He will be looking forward to repeating the same feat as a coach in another Asian country. Cisse has learned so much on the job, in 2012, he was the assistant coach of the Teranga Lions and ten years later, he led them to AFCON glory in Cameroon. Cisse also uses the 4:3:3 formations of which the injured Sadio Mane was his key element. It will be interesting to see if he will change his tactics with his prolific forward. Cisse does not lack quality in his team. Even with the absence of Mane, he still has Krepin Diatta who can be a deadly force anytime.