It’s something of a surprise to find Netherlands trading as betting favourite to win the first match of the 2022 World Cup. Louis van Gaal’s team were strong in qualifying although this isn’t a straightforward assignment against a Senegal team who are probably the strongest in Africa.

There are lots of sub-plots to this race, with Liverpool team-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane going head-to-head, although Senegal are the champions of Africa after winning the Cup of Nations back at the beginning of 2022 and that big tournament experience could serve the team well.

Aliou Cisse has been in charge of the national team since 2015 and will be hoping for an improved showing in a favourable Group A. With hosts Qatar lying in wait for both teams along with Ecuador, both sides have a very real chance of making the last sixteen stage of the World Cup.

The Lions of Teranga have proven themselves hard to beat over the past couple of years, with Senegal coming back from 1-0 down in Egypt to claim a 1-0 victory over the Pharaohs before coming through on penalty kicks. They had previously beaten the same team in the AFCON 2022 final.

Netherlands will have Van Dijk operating in central defence which is an enormous plus, with the captain having been absent at Euro 2020 where the rearguard looked porous as a result. The men in orange came through their qualifying group fairly comfortably, finishing marginally ahead of Turkey and Norway.

This isn’t a game that either team will want to lose considering that they have two winnable clashes on the horizon. Therefore, it could be worth chancing the draw for this opener and there could also be some merit in backing Under 2.5 Goals where you will profit if two goals or less are scored.

Senegal pride themselves on having a strong defence and it wouldn’t be out of the question if this much-hyped tournament begins with a goalless draw. The conditions could be alien to the teams and it will be at the back of their mind that they can land six points from their next two clashes.

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