Ballon d’Or runner-up Sadio Mane was named in Senegal’s World Cup squad by coach Aliou Cisse on Friday in spite of a recent injury.
Cisse, who captained Senegal at the 2002 World Cup, said he hoped the condition of the Bayern Munich attacker would improve within a few weeks and declared himself “really optimistic” that the injury would not require an operation.
Mane’s involvement in the tournament was in doubt after he limped off during Bayern’s 6-1 win over Werder Bremen on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old was diagnosed with an injury to his right fibula and will undergo further tests.
“I preferred to keep him in the group,” Cisse told reporters.
“Sadio Mane is an important player in our squad, it is important to continue to follow his injury, hoping that in two or three weeks there will be progress. But we are really optimistic.
“We will give ourselves all the necessary means to allow Sadio Mane to recover.”
Mane’s fitness has been a major cause of concern in Senegal, the current African champions, with state president Macky Sall tweeting on Wednesday: “Sadio, heart of a Lion! All my heart is with you!”
Cisse admitted the possible absence of the talisman would be a massive blow for the continent.
“Losing Sadio Mane is not an easy thing for a coach, for the team, even for African football,” he said.
“We don’t want to think about it but inevitably we have to be prepared should Sadio Mane be absent.
“For now, we still have time ahead of us. I don’t want to talk about the absence of Sadio Mane even if, in the back of my head, I’m trying to prepare for it.”
Mane, who has scored 33 goals in 92 international matches, is joined in the squad by Abdou Diallo, another player who has recently missed game time due to injury as well as Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye and Chelsea pair Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly.
Left back Saliou Ciss, who is currently without a club, is omitted with Fode Ballo-Toure or Ismail Jakobs providing the options on the left.
“I chose a team that can meet the demands of this competition. We gained experience in 2018 and through our continental championships. We are going to Qatar, aware of our qualities and above all with high ambitions.”
Senegal have been drawn in Group A and play the tournament opener against hosts Qatar on November 20, before going on to meet Netherlands and Ecuador.
Goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea/ENG), Seny Dieng (QPR/ENG), Alfred Gomis (Rennes/FRA)
Defenders: Yousouf Sabaly (Real Betis/ESP), Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea/ENG), Abdou Diallo (RB Leipzig/GER), Pape Abou Cisse (Olympiakos/GRE), Formose Mendy (Amiens/FRA), Ismail Jakobs (Monaco/FRA), Fode Ballo Toure (AC Milan/ITA)
Midfielders: Nampalys Mendy (Leicester/ENG), Cheikhou Kouyate (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Papa Matar-Sarre (Tottenham/ENG), Idrissa Gueye (Everton/ENG), Krepin Diatta (Monaco/FRA), Moustapha Name (Paphos/CYP), Loum Ndiaye(Porto/POR), Papa Gueye (Marseille/FRA), Pathe Ciss (Rayo Vallecano/ESP)
Forwards: Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich/GER), Boulaye Dia (Salernitana/ITA), Nicolas Jackson (Villarreal/ESP), Bamba Dieng (Marseille/FRA), Iliman Ndiaye (Sheffield United/ENG), Ismaila Sarr (Watford/ENG), Famara Diedhiou (Alanyaspor/TUR)