Kalidou Koulibaly has jumped into the defense of Chelsea team-mate Edouard Mendy after his costly errors in Senegal’s World Cup opener defeat by the Netherlands.
Goalkeeper Mendy was at fault for both goals in the late 2-0 loss, first coming from a cross he didn’t take and then spilling a routine shot.
Mendy has received plenty of criticism but Koulibaly says people are “making a mountain out of a molehill” and Senegal coach Aliou Cisse also confirmed the Chelsea goalkeeper will start his second Group A game against Qatar on Friday.
At the press conference ahead of the Senegal game, Koulibaly said: “We talk a lot, we play at the same club and we are brothers in arms for Senegal. He’s a very important player for us, difficult periods are normal.
“We are making a mountain out of a molehill here. He knows what he has to do tomorrow and so does the rest of the team and we’ll try to pull everything together to pull something out of the bag.
“When a team loses, it’s not because of one player, it’s because of the whole team. We’re going to do everything we can to change that, but I don’t think we should make a big deal out of it. I’m not worried, I know Edouard will be at his best tomorrow.”
Senegal, who are African champions, were severely weakened by the absence of Bayern Munich striker Sadio Mane through injury.
But Koulibaly revealed the former Liverpool star still plays an important role.
“Sadio always texts us, always calls us, always keeps the mentality up for the team, even if he’s not with us in Qatar he stays with all the players,” he said.
“It’s really important for us. That’s the good spirit and mentality and we need it. We hope that he will continue to support us.
“When he speaks, I believe that all of Senegal is listening. I talk to him every day and I’m really happy about that.”
Qatar could exit the tournament just five days after it began with a defeat on Friday, with no other host country in World Cup history having been eliminated faster.
Expectations were high before the start of the competition, but they looked underwhelming in Sunday’s opening defeat to Ecuador.
Since then, Saudi Arabia have beaten Argentina and Japan Germany, results which midfielder Ismail Mohamad admits have made Qatar “jealous”.
“It goes without saying that the teams you mentioned and the performances we’ve seen, especially the Arab teams, make us jealous and we want to play like they did,” he said at a press conference the game.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves, we want to give everything. Regardless of what other teams do, we want to prove ourselves on the pitch and give it our all.
“It’s very important to be in good shape and to make everyone proud. The first step we’re going to take is to try and deliver on the pitch. We will strive to make you proud, we will try our best to play at our best level to bring you joy. Tomorrow’s game will show what we’re capable of.”