Soccer-Senegal welcome pressure of decisive Ecuador clash, says Cisse


Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Senegal Press Conference - Main Media Center, Doha, Qatar - November 28, 2022 Senegal coach Aliou Cisse during the press conference REUTERS/Gareth Bumstead

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (Reuters) - Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said his team are expected to reach the World Cup knockout stages due to their status as African champions but his players are adapting to the pressure well.

Having reached the quarter-finals on their World Cup debut in 2002, Senegal were eliminated in the group stage on fair play points four years ago in Russia.

Senegal need to beat Ecuador in their final Group A game on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16. They could still remain in contention with a draw, provided hosts Qatar beat three-times finalists Netherlands.

"I come from a country where we don't like losing," Cisse told reporters on Monday. "We're always hungry for that win. Not going to the round of 16 would be difficult to digest.

"We're okay, we're dealing with the pressure and stress. For me, it's good stress."

Cisse's side lost 2-0 to the Dutch but beat Qatar 3-1 to keep alive their hopes of advancing.

"We understand that winning will allow us to continue on the adventure and that's exactly what we intend on doing," Cisse said. "We know in 2018 we were looking for a draw when maybe the points would play in our favour but this isn't the case tomorrow.

"We've got a very strong and experienced team, they're a well-oiled machine. We've got the right mixture of veterans and players, players who are used to these types of challenges."

Ecuador need a win or draw to qualify, after beating Qatar 2-0 and outplaying the Dutch in a 1-1 draw to go joint top of Group A.

The South Americans are sweating on the fitness of captain Enner Valencia after he was carried off late in the Netherlands draw with a recurrence of a knee strain.

The 33-year-old forward has scored all three of Ecuador's goals in Qatar, adding to the three he bagged in Brazil in 2014, and is key to their chances of reaching the knockout round for only the second time.

"I hope he won't be playing tomorrow," Cisse joked. "I don't really know (Valencia) in particular but I can see that he is a warrior and he'll want to be part of the team for a game like this.

"I think the whole Ecuadorean team is a great team, they are very aggressive and they defend well. I know that my team will be focused tomorrow."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond)

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