Blow for Netherlands as Memphis Depay ruled out of World Cup opener against Senegal

Barca forward to miss clash in Doha on Monday against African champions who will be without talisman Mane

Memphis Depay trained with the Netherlands squad in Qatar this week but will miss the opening game. AFP
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LIVE: Senegal take on the Netherlands in Group A

Netherlands suffered a blow to their World Cup plans when attacker Memphis Depay was ruled out of their opening match against Senegal.

The Dutch are due to began their campaign against the reigning African champions, who have themselves already lost the services of their own key striker, with Sadio Mane missing the tournament in Qatar due to injury.

Depay has been struggling with a hamstring problem for two months but this week told reporters he was fit to play after taking part in training.

“It will be a blow for us just like Sadio Mane missing for Senegal is a blow for them,” Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal said of Monday’s Group A clash at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.

“Mane is an extraordinary player. I wanted him when I was the manager at Manchester United. I chased him at the time.

“I am a fan of Mane. He can break open a match and I would say Senegal will really miss him.

“But the same applies to us. We are missing our top scorer and king of the assists [in Depay].”

The 71-year-old, in his third stint as national coach and who led the Dutch to a third-placed finish in Brazil in 2014, said the quality in his squad is even higher than the team he brought to Brazil.

“I believe that this group of players are well-connected to each other together, they work well together in a professional way, and I think that will always contribute to success.

“In 2014 we came third with a squad that was of lesser quality than this one, and with this group I expect more.”

Senegal manager Aliou Cisse has told his younger players that it is their time to shine in the absence of Mane after the Bayern Munich forward, who has scored 33 goals in 92 internationals, lost his race to recover from a shin injury.

“First of all, I'm sad for the boy, for Sadio Mane, and then for the national team, but of course it's his health that counts,” he said.

“Of course we won't hide the importance of Sadio Mane for the Senegalese team – he's very important, a coach builds his team around his best players.

“But there's also a group here with experienced players, with young players ready to step up. We've had to play matches before without Sadio Mane.”

Krepin Diatta, 23, is one of those who could fill the void left by Mane. “When you talk about the spirit and morale, of course it affects you. He is our best player and a leader,” said the Monaco forward.

“But we are determined to do what we can without him. We are going to have to work harder individually and harder as a team.

“We still have a very strong mentality, we are comfortable being together and we are strong together.”

Updated: November 21, 2022, 4:26 PM
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