World Cup 2022: Seny Dieng Sees Senegal Squad As A ‘Family’ Before Finals In Qatar

Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations title in February after beating Egypt on penalties

The Senegal squad heading to the World Cup as African champions is so harmonised it is “a family”, says goalkeeper Seny Dieng.

The understudy to number one Edouard Mendy made his debut last year, and was immediately struck by the group’s camaraderie.

Senegal, who won the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time this year, will meet the Netherlands, hosts Qatar and Ecuador in Group A next month.

“We have a great team with great guys and it’s like a family – no, not like a family, it is a family,” Queens Park Rangers man Dieng told BBC Sport Africa.

“The guys have been very welcoming, and it has been very, very easy to settle in.”

Swiss-born Dieng won his first Senegal cap when facing Eswatini in a Nations Cup qualifier in March 2021.

Ten months later, he then played twice in the group stages of the Nations Cup itself – with Mendy absent through coronavirus – and kept two clean sheets en route to the Teranga Lions lifting the trophy in Cameroon.

Most recently, he played in last month’s World Cup warm-up against Iran, which ended 1-1, but now it’s Senegal’s Group A rivals that are firmly in his sights.

“Every single game is tough no matter who it is against, but I think with the team we have we really have to focus on us and believe in ourselves – like we do – and go out knowing that we can win every game,” the 27-year-old said.

Friendly rivals

Dieng (right) embraced Edouard Mendy (wearing 16) after Senegal’s penalty shoot-out win over Egypt in the Nations Cup final in February

Dieng joined high-flying Championship side QPR in 2016, four years before Mendy also moved to the English capital.

Senegal’s number one may have been named Fifa’s Best Men’s Goalkeeper for 2021 but an early season dip in form meant he lost his place in the Chelsea side.

While QPR and Chelsea are in different divisions and light years apart financially, it’s only four miles across west London from Loftus Road to Stamford Bridge – meaning the rival keepers are often in touch.

“We speak every now and then,” explained Dieng. “We have a great relationship and we are local so we meet up.”

Dieng does have one advantage over his rival for the Senegal goalkeeping jersey in that he does not only stop goals but can score them too.

In August, he earned QPR a point at Sunderland early in the season with a stoppage-time header to secure a 2-2 draw.

“Yeah, that was my second goal,” he laughs.

“One was out on loan in my early years at QPR. Obviously it was good to get a point from the game, but ideally I’d be keeping a clean sheet and be leaving the scoring for the outfield players.”

Qatar awaits after beginnings in Zurich

Dieng won his fourth cap for Senegal in a friendly draw with Iran last month

Dieng’s journey has been an unusual one.

Born in Zurich to a Senegalese father and Swiss mother, he played for Grasshoppers before a short stint in Germany.

English non-league side AFC Fylde spotted his potential but he only played twice for them before QPR came calling.

However, he had to bide his time at Rangers before nailing down a place in the first team two years ago.

“When I came to the club I had a hard time at the start and I had to go out on loan quite a few times,” he recalls of several stints at lower-tier clubs. “But I kept patient and got my reward in the end. And here we are now.”

As is the fashion these days, QPR play out from the back so Dieng has to be a very modern goalkeeper.

With quick and accurate distribution, he is also confident on the ball.

“I’ve played outfield before and I think I am comfortable with the ball at my feet, so that is something that suits me,” said the courteous Dieng, a softly-spoken man despite his 6ft 4in tall frame.

With QPR challenging for automatic promotion to the Premier League and Senegal tipped as dark horses at the World Cup in Qatar, the 2022-23 campaign could yet surpass the highs Dieng experienced with the Teranga Lions earlier this year.

Source: BBC

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