Liverpool's Sadio Mane played a central role as Senegal qualified for the World Cup for just the second time in their history after beating South Africa in Polokwane.

Needing two points from their two remaining games to end a 16-year wait to reach the global showcase, the Lions of Teranga claimed the victory which sees them qualify with a game to spare and become the 24th side to take their place in Russia.

Mane laid on the first for Diafra Sakho with a fine pass as the deadlock was broken after 12 minutes. The Liverpool forward then helped double the lead after seeing his shot, which was initially saved by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, rebound into the net off Thamsanqa Mkhize.

"It was not easy but I had to keep pushing," said Mane, according to Reuters, a week on from the 25-year-old returning from a hamstring injury. "It wasn't easy for me, there was too much pressure on me but that has become normal. It was important to be able make a difference.

"I saw three defenders all in a line and I couldn't pull the ball back, so I just put it through the middle of them because I knew Diafra Sakho would be racing onto the ball. We play well together every time we are in the national team.

"Our coach [Aliou Cisse] wasn't happy even though we were 2-0 up at half-time. He warned us it would be difficult to keep the lead. But we knew we had just 45 minutes to hold on for the World Cup.

"It's a big dream for all of us to play at the World Cup. We are going to represent all of Africa and go there as an African team. We will try to give our best for the whole continent."

The inclusion of Mane in the Senegal squad had been a controversial one, with the ex-Southampton man having sustained a hamstring injury on his last international appearance and only made one outing for Liverpool since, in the 4-1 win over West Ham United.

But having come through the vital qualifier unscathed and delivered passage to the World Cup, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be hopeful Mane is rested for the final game against South Africa on Tuesday [14 November] which is now a dead rubber.

Speaking prior to Mane's comeback against West Ham, Klopp said according to the Liverpool Echo: "I have no problems with international games," he said. "I'm really happy for Senegal that they could go to the World Cup and they need Sadio Mane for this, I understand, he is fit to play.

"The only thing I would ask is if they can make it in the first game then it would be cool if he could come back and could make the preparations for our game against Southampton.

"I cannot decide things like this, I don't even try, but we are in contact. First, he goes there and he recovers and has a long flight, then he will play the game, good news for Senegal. He needs real recovery - if you know the coach of Senegal, tell him - after this game today and then he will be ready for South Africa."

After Liverpool host Southampton when the domestic campaign resumes, the Reds travel to Sevilla in the Champions League prior to welcoming champions Chelsea to Anfield.

Sadio Mane
Mane played a vital role in guiding Senegal to just their second World Cup Getty Images