In a competition like the African Cup of Nations (CAF), where the balance is traditionally shifted by the expectation of technical or athletic domination, Aliou Cissé’s Senegal is also showing excellent game play organization. The Teranga Lions capitalize on their athletic and technical resources thanks to the general tactical framework: with systematic planning of the offensive solutions that hinge on the Mané-Keita duo, one of the most talented in technical terms of the entire African Cup. Together, they have already racked up 2 assists and 2 goals.In Cissé’s 4-3-3 formation, Mané and Keita act as outside forwards. In that position, they fully exploit their explosive penetration on the wings and the quickness in running and thinking that makes them stand out, as clearly demonstrated in Mané’s goal against Zimbabwe.

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From a position of defensive retreat, in less than ten seconds, Keita and Mané launch a quick and lethal offensive transition, triggered by Gueyé’s ball recovery, that leads Keita to a shot and Mané to finish with a goal.

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Lined up on the two wings, Mané and Keita exploit their propensity for dribbling, as well as their skills, playing on the wing opposite their favoured foot in order to move in to the centre and take a shot on goal.

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Keita’s heatmap on the Wyscout platform

But their tendency to attack the half-spaces is where Mané and Keita are proving to be a special formula for Senegal’s offensive transitions. Focusing their range of action in the central corridors, they not only establish the focal point of the game play, managing to open up consistently successful passing lanes for the trio of Gueyé, Kouyaté and Diamé, but also stimulate the offensive attitude of the back wings, M’Bengué and Gassama, expanding the danger zone. This wide range of attacking mechanisms is exactly what gives Senegal a bit of an edge among the contenders for the final victory.

Fabrizio Gabrielli
Writes and translates books, he has collaborated with several blogs writing about Sudamerica, football and literature. He’s the editor in chief for L’Ultimo Uomo.