World Cup Senegal vs Netherlands tips: Mane's misery boosts Dutch prospects

Senegal's World Cup hopes have been dented by Sadio Mane's injury, and Tipstrr's football expert Sergiu Baltuta thinks his absence will help the Netherlands win Group A and go deep in the tournament.

Senegal's dream of becoming Africa's first World Cup winner was dealt a severe blow by the news of Mane's unfortunate withdrawal, and while some defenders might secretly rejoice at his absence, the tournament will be just a little duller for the loss of one of its brightest lights.

Senegal and Netherlands open their World Cup bids in Doha on Monday afternoon, their first ever meeting at full international level. With Ecuador and Qatar to come, whoever wins this encounter will be firmly in the driving seat to top Group A.

Senegal do not have a rich World Cup pedigree, but have notably managed wins in their opening game at each of their previous two tournament appearances, memorably beating defending World Cup champions France 1-0 in 2002, and then seeing off Poland 2-1 four years ago in Russia.

Coincidentally, Netherlands have not lost the opening game in any of their last eight World Cup tournaments (six wins, two draws). Indeed, the Dutch have not tasted defeat during the group stage since going down 1-0 to Belgium in 1994, a sequence that has produced ten wins and three draws in thirteen unbeaten group games.

Netherlands arrive in Qatar unbeaten in their last fifteen outings, with their last defeat coming in a 2-0 reversal against Czech Republic at last year's Euros. Following a worrying loss in Turkey, the Dutch topped their World Cup qualifying group comfortably after keeping six clean sheets in their eight subsequent victories.

Without the threat of Mane buzzing between their defensive lines, the Netherlands look in even better shape to start their tournament in style, and with Virgil van Dijk marshalling their back line, they will hope to do so by notching up another clean sheet.

Favourites to win the group, Netherlands have their own injury concerns, with star striker Memphis Depay unlikely to make the starting lineup after only recently returning to training.

Barcelona's striker is a key player for the Dutch after contributing twelve goals and six assists in his team's ten World Cup qualifiers.

Given both teams' records of success in previous opening games, it looks like something will have to give on Monday afternoon. The tipping point would appear to be the loss of Mane, whose withdrawal is likely to be felt more deeply by Senegal than Depay's probable absence for the Dutch.

A win for the Netherlands, should pave their way to a last-16 tie against the runner-up in a weak-looking Group B, and once in the quarter-finals, a fit-again Depay might just make the Dutch dark horses to go even deeper.

Possible starting lineups:

Senegal: E. Mendy - Sabaly, Diallo, Koulibaly, Ballo Toure - P. Gueye, N. Mendy, I. Gueye - I. Sarr, Dia, Diatta

Netherlands: Pasveer - Timber, Van Dijk, Ake - Dumfries, F. de Jong, Koopmeiner, Blind - Gakpo, Berghuis - Bergwijn

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