The Senegal national football team ahead of schedule became the winner in Group D of qualifiers in AFC, and came to the FIFA World Cup the second time in memory. Senegal has luck in drawing — Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and the Republic of South Africa weren’t able to provide the Senegalese with worthy competition in struggle for the first position in the qualification group.
Senegal is a young and rather poor country. The national team played the first official match only in 1961. Senegal began participating in qualifiers for the World Cup in 1970, however, for many years the “Lions of Teranga” had not achieved success. Only at the eighth attempt Senegal got qualified for the final tournament. That happened in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. And the debut performance in the World Cup became super-successful for Senegal.
In the 2002 qualification, Senegal at heavy struggle withdrew a berth from the Morocco and Egypt national football teams. Having begun the tournament with three draws, in the other five matches the “Lions of Teranga” won four victories. According to the tournament results, Senegal outplayed Egypt by two points, and appeared in the table above Morocco due to the best difference of goals and missed balls. The crucial role in the team success was played by El Hadji Diouf, the 22-year-old forward of the Senegalese.
In the final tournament in South Korea, Senegal got into the same group with the current World Cup Champion — the France national football team, and also the Denmark and Uruguay teams. In this serious company Senegal looked like a “whipping boy”, but the Africans created a furor already in the first match. In the opening match Senegal, thanks to a goal of Papa Bouba Diop, minimally outplays the World Cup Champion, 1:0. The sensational result seemed to appear because of thoughtless attitude of the French to the opponent, and in the subsequent tours everything would fall into place. However, and in the group stage Senegal didn’t lose two next matches. The match against Denmark came to the end in a draw 1:1. In the last round Senegal after the first half smashed Uruguay with the score 3:0. Alas, but the “Lions of Teranga” lacked experience to hold a winning score – the South Americans could score three goals in the second half, the final score was 3:3. Such a result allowed the Senegalese to leave the group for play-off already in the debut World Cup.
But it wasn’t quite the end of it. In the round of last 16 Senegal met with Sweden — the team which kicked out Argentina from drawing. In the first half the Swedes took the lead. Gradually, the Senegal national football team managed to intercept initiative and even the score. A ball is on target of the forward Henri Camara. The game gradually passed into extra time where the decisive golden goal was scored by the same Camara. Incredibly, but Senegal got through into the eight strongest teams of the world. In the quarterfinal Senegal as equal battled against the Turkey national football team. The match came to the end in a draw again, but this time the “Lions of Teranga” lost within extra time.
The World Cup became not the only success of the Senegalese in 2002. Early in the year in the African Cup of Nations, Mali, Senegal could get into the final which also became the team best achievement in memory. In the final Senegal lost to Cameroon only on a penalty.
The Head Coach Frenchman Bruno Metsu became the main creator of victories of that national team of Senegal. The French expert who couldn’t achieve success with European clubs, perfectly proved working with Asian and African teams. Unfortunately, Metsu early died because of a dreadful disease.
The today’s national team of Senegal is, in many respects, similar to that team which tried to obtain success in 2002. The team frame consists of young players representing mainly the Ligue 1. The most famous football player is one of Liverpool leaders Sadio Mane. However, it will be very difficult for the “Lions of Teranga” to repeat the sixteen-year-old success.