Senegal fans

Senegal channel the spirit of 2002 to restore our hope in an African side making an impact in Russia.

It had been a World Cup to forget for Africa until Senegal took to the field on Tuesday (19 June). Until then: Four matches, and four defeats for African teams. But the Lions of Teranga restored pride with a 2-1 win over Poland to underline their credentials as the continent’s best hope to make an impact in Russia.

Aliou Cisse channels the spirit of 2002

Senegal have only ever participated in one previous World Cup: the tournament in Asia 16 years ago. And back then they arrived on the international stage in style by beating defending champions France in the opening match. Aliou Cisse, the current Senegal manager, was a key member of the 2002 squad and knows what it takes to progress past the group stage.

West African virtues subdue Poland

Beyond acting as a bridge to the class of 2002, Cisse also got his tactics right against Poland. Senegal’s 4-4-2 formation provided both width and pace on the counter-attack, and Poland lacked the defensive solidity to keep the likes of Sadio Mane and M’Baye Niang at bay. Indeed, it was the pace and power of Senegal’s forwards and wide players that proved the difference.

Reviewing the goals

Niang drifted out to the left where he found space to help create the opener, which was scored by Idrissa Gueye, albeit fortuitously via a deflection off Poland’s Thiago Cionek. Senegal had earlier exploited space down the same channel through full-back Youssouf Sabaly. The second goal had more than an element of good fortune as Grzegorz Krychowiak’s lobbed back pass was an invitation for Niang to use his pace to beat one defender to the ball before poking the ball into the back of the net to seal the win.  

Celebrating in style

Senegal have one of the better kits at the World Cup and their goal celebrations are arguably the best of the tournament so far. Cisse’s epic fist pumps are nothing short of memeworthy, while the coordinated hop-and-dance celebration led by Niang will live long in the memory.

What comes next

Egypt’s 3-1 defeat to Russia later on Tuesday effectively ended the Pharaohs’ World Cup, while Morocco face Portugal and Spain in their remaining fixtures. Nigeria must beat Iceland on Friday to keep their hopes alive and Tunisia face a mighty-looking Belgium. Senegal take on Japan on Sunday and a win for Cisse’s men would likely seal qualification for the last 16.

Catch eight-minute highlights packages of Senegal’s win over Poland on Catch Up. Stream today’s action on DStv Now on your mobile or your laptop on the go.