Everton and Senegal midfielder Idrissa Gueye is anticipating his first-ever FIFA World Cup tournament of his career with the Sengalese National Team at the 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Senegal comfortably qualified for FIFA World Cup 2018 after triumphantly topping the CAF 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification group stage. During the glorious road to the prestigious 2018 FIFA World Cup, Senegal conceded the second least amount of goals during 2018 World Cup qualifying games.
The ever-combative Senegalese international, who has won 48 caps for his country, officially ranked as Opta Pro’s number one tackler in the ultra competitive English Premier League in the 2016-2017 season.
Furthermore, Gueye was confirmed by Opta Pro as Europe’s number one tackler — Gueye successfully won Ligue 1 with Lille in France. Since arriving at Goodison Park, Gueye has positively endeared himself to Evertonians due to his thorough skilled commitment and defensive work-rate.
Gueye’s Senegal are currently ranked 28th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, whereas Senegal’s FIFA World Cup 2018 Group H opponents Poland are ranked 10th, Colombia 16th and Japan 60th respectively.
Senegal manager Aliou Cissé was a pivotal part of the mighty Senegalese teams which were runners-up at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002, as well as a member of the heroic Senegal team which inspired the entire world at FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan 2002.
Last week, Idrissa Gueye was officially selected in Aliou Cissé’s 23 man Senegal squad for FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. Gueye has played for Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations (2015, 2017) and the London 2012 Olympics.
Dean Perretta caught up with Everton and Senegal midfielder Idrissa Gueye to discuss Senegal’s chances this summer at the highly awaited FIFA World Cup 2018, coupled alongside Everton’s positive optimism moving forward next season.
Dean Perretta: First and foremost Idrissa, FIFA World Cup 2018 is on the horizon. What does it mean personally for you to represent Senegal in the first-ever FIFA World Cup tournament of your career?
Idrissa Gueye: It’s a huge honor. It has been a childhood dream. The first dream was to be able to turn professional, and after that for any player, it is to play in a World Cup and represent their country.
This is a huge moment for me and my family. Senegal has been to one World Cup before and we did very well. Seeing that when I was young was an inspiration to try very hard to become a footballer. Senegal means a lot to me and this event means a lot to the people of Senegal. I hope that we are able to make everyone proud.
Perretta: Senegal are in FIFA World Cup 2018 Group H alongside Colombia, Japan and Poland. Do you believe that Senegal can repeat history similar to the inspirational Senegalese success at FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan 2002?
Gueye: This is a very tough group, but we believe in ourselves. It is a challenge to even qualify now. Since we did that, it has given us nothing but belief to carry on. We know that the whole country is behind us and we will give everything to make sure we represent Senegal in the best way.
Of course, the team of 2002 getting to the Quarter-Finals in their first World Cup was history for us, but we try not to add that pressure on us. We will focus on our job, play good football and get as far as we can go in the tournament.
Perretta: How would you describe the overall level of optimism and expectations for Senegal at the forthcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 back home?
Gueye: I think our team is very strong. A lot of our players play in the top leagues for their clubs. Senegal of course expects us to do well and we expect that of ourselves.
Many people want us to win the tournament and believe we can. But you know this is a very hard task, so we will focus on each game and play the best we can. If we give our best, I think the country will be happy with us.
Perretta: Including yourself of course Idrissa, Senegal has a spirited team of many very talented players, such as Sadio Mané, Moussa Sow, Mame Biriam Diouf, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Henri Saivet, as well as Kalidou Koulibaly and Badou Ndiaye to name just a few. What do you believe separates Senegal from other nations competing at the FIFA World Cup 2018 this summer?
Gueye: Yes. Like I said before, we have a lot of very good players who have made a good name for themselves worldwide in football. This is very good for the team, so the fight for places is very competitive.
Two of my friends in particular, Oumar Niasse and Pape Souare, did not get picked to go because of this. These guys and the other guys are top, top players! But as a country we support each other no matter what! I think what separates us is that we are a team that have known each other for a long time and are very together. A lot of us played together as kids, so we know each other very well. I think this will help us a lot in the tournament.
Perretta: Before we leave Idrissa, what are your main ambitions and goals at Everton next season?
Gueye: I want to help the club fight for Europe next season. This club has been great to me since I have arrived. We have so much quality in the team. Yes, last season was difficult, but we are very capable of again playing in Europe
(Photo Credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe)