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Senegal taking nothing for granted ahead of important clash against Rwanda
ABIDJAN (Cote d'Ivoire) - Later this week, Senegal and Rwanda will face off for the fourth time in just over a decade with an important decision at stake.
The game on Friday February 22 will mark one of the highlights of the second leg of Group F of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers in the Ivorian city of Abidjan.
It's been almost twelve years since Senegal used their dominance to destroy then up-and-coming Rwanda 93-58 at FIBA AfroBasket 2007.
Since then, clashes between these two teams have become more balanced with the latest one - last September - showing how Africa's No. 3 team Senegal needed to step up to prevail 94-89 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Yet, Senegal still hold a 3-1 head-to-head advantage ahead of the Abidjan meeting.
The Senegalese sit in second place of Group F with 16 points, and are one win away from securing one of the five tickets available for African teams for this year's World Cup in China.
However, Senegal head coach Aboudramane Ndiaye is taking nothing for granted and called up some of his best performers to help their country return to the FIBA Basketball World Cup for the second straight time.
Among some of Senegal's stars heading for Abidjan are Maurice Ndour, Mouhammad Faye and Xane D'Almeida.
Meanwhile, Rwanda - who have been holding a training camp for almost a month - will look to delay or make Senegal's World Cup aspirations a little harder even though they no longer have a chance to qualify for the China 2019 showpiece.
The Rwandans head to Abidjan with a 3-6 record thanks to wins over Mali (twice) and Uganda.
"Our target is to win at least one game and to be in the top eight in the final ranking," Rwanda head coach Vladimir Bosnjak has recently admitted.
In his latest move to refresh his team, Bosnjak named Olivier Shyaka as the team captain while veteran Aristide Mugabe won't be traveling to Abidjan. The Serbian added: "We also want to target refreshing our roster and involve some younger players to have a bigger role in our national team performance."