2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Russia 2018

Sabaly, Senegal’s model student

© Getty Images
  • Youssouf Sabaly is excelling with Senegal at Russia 2018
  • Coach Aliou Cisse: “We really need a player like him”
  • Full-back sets out his goals before make-or-break Colombia match​
By Cynthia Nzetia with Senegal

If there is one player who has set a high standard in both his first two matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, producing two near-perfect displays, it is Senegal’s Youssouf Sabaly. 

“We really need a player like him,” said Lions of Teranga coach Aliou Cisse in reference to the young Bordeaux defender. “He’s solid in defence and finds space for himself really well. He’s also got a great understanding with Sadio Mane, which is important. He’s just the kind of player I like.”

Born in Le Chesnay, near Paris, Sabaly has been putting in one good performance after another. Full of energy against Poland, the 25-year-old cemented his place at left-back with another fine display in the meeting with Japan.

Sabaly, who plays on the other flank for his French club, has also showcased his ability to cross the ball and played a part in both his side’s goals against the Japanese. It was his shot that goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima spilled into Sadio Mane’s path for Senegal’s opener. And in the build-up to their second, the full-back performed a Zinedine Zidane-like pirouette in the box before laying off a pass that Moussa Wague fired home at the far post.

Sabaly’s team-mates are full of praise for his efforts. “Youssouf is strong and when he’s around you know that we are safe down that flank,” said team captain Mane.

The Bordeaux man is having a world finals to remember, as he confirmed: “I feel good. Emotionally, it’s sunk in that I’m playing at the World Cup, representing my country and fulfilling a childhood dream. I’ve got myself in warrior mode, and we’re hoping to go as far as we can.”

Sabaly has shown great focus with his exemplary positioning, timely interventions, and his contributions in attack, qualities he has also been showing in training, as Omar Daf, Senegal’s assistant coach, confirmed: “He’s amazing. He never lets his intensity drop, even when he’s picking up cones. He’s always running. He’s a kid who still has room for improvement, but with all the effort he’s putting in, he’s going to sort out his shortcomings very quickly.”

“We’re obviously having a good time and we feel pretty much at ease,” said Sabaly. “Everyone likes us, but we can’t go around thinking that we don’t have objectives or that the fans aren’t expecting us to get results. We’re going to do all we can to beat Colombia and make the last 16. We’re not on holiday yet.”

If they are to thwart the ambitions of Radamel Falcao and Co in the final group match, Senegal will need Sabaly to continue producing his best.

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