Dutch target World Cup statements against Senegal without Mané

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The Netherlands are looking to make two statements at their first World Cup Monday’s game against a Senegalese team that must quickly overcome the loss of star striker Sadio Mané.

The former is strictly about football and establishing the team as a title contender in Qatar alongside top-ranked Brazil, defending champions France and Argentina. The Dutch have gained less attention in the build-up to the tournament after failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia four years ago, but they arrive as one of the best-form teams in Europe.

“We have a great chance to also become world champions,” said Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, who is back in charge for the third time. “There are few coaches who dare to speak like that, but I say this.”

The second statement the Dutch want to make at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha focuses on longstanding criticism of the World Cup host country’s human rights laws and record.

The Dutch football federation is the leader of the “One Love” anti-discrimination movement and Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk is expected to wear an armband with a multicolored heart-shaped logo in defiance of FIFA’s order to keep politics out of the game. scope. World Cup.

The “One Love” bracelets are a criticism of Qatari laws that criminalize homosexuality. The England and Wales captains have said they will also ignore the FIFA directive and wear them when they open their World Cup game on Monday.

Among international coaches, Van Gaal has been one of the most outspoken critics of allowing the small but wealthy emirate to host the World Cup, a decision he called “ridiculous”. He toned down his criticism this week at his first press conference in Qatar. but still made it clear that he would have preferred the tournament to go to a different country with more “experience” in football.

The World Cup will likely be the last major coaching assignment for van Gaal, 71, who announced earlier this year that he has prostate cancer. and has been receiving radiation treatment.

The Netherlands have lost three World Cup finals, in 1974, 1978 and 2010, and while there is a long way to go in Qatar, the Group A game against African champions Senegal is the biggest early challenge for the Dutch and a good indicator of how far they can go. Let’s go. Host nation Qatar and Ecuador are the other teams in Group A.

The Netherlands are on a 15-match unbeaten run under Van Gaal, who also led his country to the semifinals at the 2014 World Cup in one of his earlier spells.

Forward Memphis Depay has said he has recovered from a hamstring injury, easing the more serious concern of Van Gaal, who said he was likely to keep the Barcelona striker on the bench against Senegal.

The Senegal coach, Aliou Cissé, does not have that option for the Mané talisman, ruled out for the World Cup Thursday with injury. Mané, 30, underwent surgery on the lower right leg injury sustained in a league match with Bayern Munich two weeks ago, removing Senegal’s most potent attacking threat and heart of the team.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup

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