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Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:10 UK

Niang, Diawara return for Senegal

By Piers Edwards
BBC Sport, Dakar

Souleymane Diawara
Diawara has missed all five of Senegal's Group 6 qualifiers
Senegal's bid to reach the final round of 2010 World Cup and Nations Cup qualifying has been boosted by the return of Mamadou Niang and Souleymane Diawara.

The French-based duo have ended self-imposed international exiles taken in May after formally informing the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) by letter.

Niang and Diawara have missed all five of Senegal's Group 6 qualifiers so far, with the Teranga Lions currently lying third with just one round of matches left.

Niang's return is a huge boost as the Senegalese host The Gambia in next month's must-win qualifier, especially since he originally stated he would not play again internationally this year.

"The players have written the letter that coach Lamin Ndiaye was asking for," Saer Seck, the vice-president of the Normalisation Committee running Senegalese football, told BBC Sport.

"Since the players had written a letter to the federation explaining their desire not to play internationals, the coach had asked for a similar letter explaining their willingness to return.

"The letter arrived on Wednesday."

The duo's return is a rare boost for Senegal coach Lamin Ndiaye, whose tenure has been fraught with difficulties since taking charge in January.

Heavily criticised during Senegal's disastrous 2008 Nations Cup campaign, Marseille man Niang stepped down in dismay at both the personal attacks and the way in which Senegalese football is run.

Bordeaux defender Diawara, meanwhile, excused himself from June's opening group qualifiers, claiming fatigue at the end of the European season, yet he failed to return for this month's 3-2 defeat in Algeria.

Neither pair could have imagined that Senegal would struggle to make it through Group 6, with the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists needing to beat The Gambia on 11-12 October to reach the final round.

"I welcome the players' return - it's a good thing," Seck explained.

"They are two good players who will strengthen the team and we will need all our energies to beat the Gambians, who are a good side."

"Now it's up to Lamin Ndiaye whether he selects them or not.

This is a strong probability, since Ndiaye was so keen to call up Niang for the Algeria match that he checked in vain whether the FSF had received news of his return just hours before naming his squad.

The Algerians currently lead Group 6 with nine points, one more than both The Gambia and Senegal, with the Teranga Lions trailing their neighbours on goal difference.

Only the group leaders are certain to qualify for the final round of African qualifying, while the 8 best runners-up from the 12 groups also make it through.

see also
Senegal expel Diawara
16 Aug 06 |  African
Algeria return to Group 6 summit
06 Sep 08 |  African
Liberia rally means Senegal draw
15 Jun 08 |  African

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