Oumar Niasse insists fellow countryman and Everton teammate Idrissa Gana Gueye will have a big say on how well Senegal do at this summer’s World Cup.
The Blues striker was unfortunate to miss out on a place in Aliou Cisse’s 23-man squad for the tournament but Gana will have the opportunity to reach 50 caps for his country, needing just two more appearances to reach his half century.
Gana was at his marauding best in the final months of the Premier League season and finished second in the division’s list of top tacklers, sitting behind Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi with 117 successful challenges.
And Niasse has backed his friend to carry that form into the tournament in Russia, which kicks off for the Lions of Teranga on 19 June against Poland.
“He has shown for Everton what an important player he is but he is also very important for our country,” he said. “You can see his qualities – how he tackles, breaks up play, stops opponents – and that is so important to any team.
“I think Gana will show it at the World Cup. Senegal have got many good players and he is definitely one of the best.
“Yes, he’s my friend but he’s also a very good footballer and I’m looking forward to seeing him do very well in Russia.”
Alongside Poland, Senegal will face Japan and Columbia in a group that should be competitive in terms of who will qualify for the knockout stages.
There is plenty of top-flight experience within former Birmingham City midfielder Cisse’s squad.
Some of the more familiar names are defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who caught the eye with Napoli as they pushed Juventus all the way for the Serie A title - and midfield pair Cheikhou Kouyaté and Badou Ndiaye who turned out for Premier League pair West Ham and Stoke respectively last season.
Niasse is excited to see how his fellow countrymen get on out in Russia and is adamant they will give everything to progress out of the group stages.
“It is a great opportunity for our country to show to the world what a good team we have,” he added. “I am very proud to come from Senegal and am looking forward to the World Cup.
“We will see how we will do. We have a strong team. We will not go there as tourists – we will fight until the end. We will try our best.”