Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has total trust in goalkeeper Edouard Mendy despite his rocky start to the World Cup campaign.
Mendy, who Cisse said had a steely resolve and was a certain starter for Senegal’s second Group A game against Qatar on Friday, was arguably at fault for both goals in his side’s opening 2-0 loss to the Netherlands.
The defeat has left the African champion with work to do to escape a group that also includes an Ecuador side which made light work of host Qatar in its opening match. It also continued a difficult spell for Mendy, who has found himself on the bench for periods at Chelsea this season, with Kepa Arrizabalaga preferred under new manager Graham Potter.
His place in the Senegal side, however, is not under threat, with Cisse confident in his keeper’s mental strength.
“Edouard is doing very well, he has got a steely resolve,” Cisse told reporters on Thursday. “Edouard’s qualities speak for themselves, I don’t think that anyone is doubting him, sometimes he has highs, sometimes he has lows, but he has my full trust, my blind trust, and that of his team-mates. Tomorrow he will be on the pitch.”
The game against the Netherlands had appeared to be heading for a draw until the 84th minute when Frenkie de Jong’s cross was curled invitingly into the box. Mendy came to collect but got nowhere near the ball as Cody Gakpo stole in to head home. Deep into stoppage time, the keeper parried a relatively tame shot into the path of Davy Klaassen, who made no mistake.
‘Mountain out of a molehill’
Senegal centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, who is also Mendy’s team-mate at Chelsea, said people were over-reacting about the keeper’s form. “We play at the same club and we are also brothers in arms for Senegal, Edouard is a very important player for us, it is normal to go through difficult phases - I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill here,” he said.
Senegal, robbed of its top attacking talent after Sadio Mane was injured in the lead-up to the tournament, was crowned African champion by beating Egypt on penalties in February, while Friday’s opponents Qatar is the Asian champion.
Cisse’s side was knocked out in the group stage four years ago and is unlikely to better that if it doesn’t win on Friday. “We have our back against the wall but we are Lions, the Lions of Teranga,” said Koulibaly.
“We will give everything to continue with the dream and to let the Senegalese people dream. We don’t want to disappoint the Senegalese population. What is certain is that the behaviour and mentality tomorrow will be that of warriors.”