El Hadji Diouf has accused England of believing they have already beaten Senegal and warned that could lead to another famous World Cup victory for his country.
Diouf, who was part of the Senegal team that defeated France at the 2002 tournament, is an assistant coach with the squad preparing to meet England in Sunday’s last-16 tie in Qatar. He was complimentary about Gareth Southgate’s side but feels they are guilty of complacency.
“I never say Senegal can’t win,” the former Liverpool forward said. “It reminds me of when we play against France: they win the game before they play it and I think England today do the same thing, which is good for us.
“We don’t have anything to show the world. If you see our squad, we have Édouard Mendy, we have Kalidou Koulibaly [both Chelsea], we have a lot of good players in England. Some play in the Championship but they are really Premier League players, like Ismaïla Sarr [of Watford]. It’s for them to show how good they are.
“It is a wonderful draw — who would not want to play this game? The players are excited. Talking to the boys it’s about big games, big players, they have to show how good they are. And definitely, this game is going to be very exciting because England have a good team, good players. I know we are not the favourites but we are going to do everything to beat them and the players can do it.”
Diouf said the pressure was all on Southgate’s men. “Definitely yes. England have to [win] but we have to show them that the game is not finished before we play. These boys are ready. They work hard in training, we have a good spirit and just need to keep going.”
Diouf, whose former clubs also include Bolton, Leeds, Sunderland and Blackburn, believes England have changed their approach. “They all copy – the national team as well – Pep Guardiola and Man City. They play the same way: they want the ball and score a lot of goals and play tiki-taka.
“[The] players can do it as well, they have a good team and a very good team spirit. It’s not like the Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard time – the two of them don’t like each other – it’s about team spirit and Gareth Southgate did a great job.”
Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations on penalties in February and Diouf is confident they can beat England the same way. “We are always going to win on penalties,” he said. “If we get to penalties we’re going to win it. Easy. I know the goalkeeper we’ve got [Mendy] and I know we can stop some of their penalties.”