Perhaps no team built up more dark horse hype for the Qatar World Cup than Senegal did over the past 18 months. The Lions of Teranga have been the best team in Africa over the last four years, several of their players are in great form and they were drawn into a soft group with Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands.
Everything was looking up for Senegal, until two weeks ago when the team’s talisman and one of the best players in the world, Sadio Mane, got injured during a match with Bayern Munich.
All of a sudden, all the sleeper talk subsided and Senegal was left in the dust.
Has that sentiment created a buy-low opportunity in Senegal’s opening match with the Group A favorites, the Netherlands, on Monday morning?
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Senegal vs. Netherlands odds (Caesars)
- Senegal: +550
- Netherlands: -175
- Draw: +265
Senegal vs. Netherlands prediction
After finishing as runners up in 2010 and making it to the semi-finals in 2014, it’s been a pretty quiet eight years for the Netherlands. That hush is likely to subside in Qatar, though, as Clockwork Orange are one of the favorites to win the whole tournament.
Part of the market’s confidence in the Dutch is because this is a very talented squad that has gelled well over the last year, but the hype truly became real when the Netherlands were placed in Group A with Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal.
All of a sudden, the love for the Netherlands became real as the Orange have one of the clearest paths to the semi-finals of any favorite.
And even if the Dutch don’t have the truly elite game-breakers that other favorites have, they do have talent all over the pitch and are a cohesive unit under Louis van Gaal, who is a significant upgrade over former manager Frank de Boer.
There are plenty of reasons to love the Dutch. The Netherlands have a great center-back pairing with Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk, they’ve got a ton of attacking flair and their midfield is as talented as it is versatile. Whether or not Clockwork Orange have the depth needed to compete with the big boys remains to be seen, but they certainly are good enough to be robust favorites in this group.
But that doesn’t mean they should be -175 favorites over Senegal on the three-way moneyline on Monday.
Even without Mane, Senegal should be a really tough team to beat. Mane is a game-breaker and one of the best scoring forwards in the world, but the Lions of Teranga still have options going forward with Ismaila Sarr and Boulaye Dia. But Senegal’s biggest strength is its spine, with Edouard Mendy in goal, Kalidou Koulibaly in the middle of the defense and Idrisse Gana Gueye in the middle of the midfield.
Betting on the World Cup?
Gueye’s presence as a shield for Senegal’s backline and his ability to snuff out quick counterattacks will be paramount against a quick, technical Netherlands team that wants to keep the ball on the floor and pass their way through you.
Over the long-term of this tournament, you’d expect the Netherlands’ talent to shine through and for them to be a better team than Senegal, but in a 90-minute match the Lions of Teranga should be competitive.
This price has moved way too much off the Mane news, providing some serious value on Senegal as a +550 underdog.
Senegal vs. Netherlands pick
Senegal +550 (Caesars)