The Senegalese fans are one of the charms of the tournament. The dancers, who have the letters of the name of the country painted on their stomachs, put the number “19” on their backs, which Koulibaly also applied to himself with a cute marker on the sleeve of the captain’s armband.
This is a touching dedication to the legendary creator of the first sensation of the 2022 World Cup. No. 19 Bouba Diop scored the winner for France. On that day, it was not easy for the 11-year-old boy Kalidou to choose a side. Koulibaly was born in France, he saw Africa only on TV.
He was brought up in a modest club at that time, he did not show great hope. Could become a loader or a teacher, a driver, or a nurse. But the love of football was nourished by the successes of idols – Thuram and Desailly. France won the 1998 World Cup, which Coulibaly celebrated like a little Frenchman, and won Euro 2000. And then the champions ran into the team of Bruno Metsu. Twenty years ago, the historical homeland of Kalidou sensationally beat the actual homeland. And yesterday came the turn of his victory, being a respected captain of the Senegal team.
Koulibaly scored the winning goal, and for Senegal, the victory was his choice. Refused an invitation to the French national team. It is symbolic that they played with Ecuador on November 29 – on this day exactly two years ago, Buba Diop left the world. Dad was a young man, only 42 years old, but the former Lance, Fulham, and Portsmouth midfielder had been seriously ill for a long time.
The poor fellow was unlucky with heredity, both amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Charcot’s disease at once. Otherwise, Senegal’s record holder for goals at the World Cup – the author of three goals against France and Uruguay, would have rejoiced at the success of his team captain in his new post.
Cisse coped without Mane
Aliou played for Lille, PSG, and Birmingham, and was a real leader of the national team, although he did not collect a hundred matches for Senegal. He was a decent football player, but clearly not at the level of Koulibaly. But it was the generation of Cisse, Bouba Diop, Diao, Henri Camara, and the scandalous El Hadj Diouf that put the Senegal team on the football map of the world. We were second at CAN-2002, and then the “Lions of Teranga” almost ended up in the semi-finals of the World Championship. We lost to Turkey but got close to the prize-winning place at the World Cup.
Then there was a sensation, but now the victory of Senegal in the African Cup and the success in the group with the Netherlands are perceived differently. Aliou Cisse was allowed to work in peace, and although next to the players from Chelsea and PSG he has enough good, but not great masters, the combination of the French ancestors returned to their homeland, along with replenishment from African academies rich in talent, allows you to assemble a physically strong, calm and character team. The African teams at the 2022 World Cup are fine, but Senegal is the calmest.
It’s only a pity that there is no Mane – Sadio could add the missing shots against the Dutch, but even without the Bayern forward they play solidly. It is clear that the class of leaders helps a lot since Koulibaly and Gueye performed at the highest level. And age hints to them that it’s either now or never. The African champions made the playoffs after twenty long years. A whole new generation of fans has grown up who don’t remember the success of 2002. You need to thank the head coach because, before Cisse, the Senegalese had never won at the CAN, but they conquered this important peak. For a country with only 17 million inhabitants, this is a great achievement.
The Lions of Teranga is a mature team in every sense. It is no coincidence that we won the African Cup on the second attempt. It is no coincidence that Senegal has had one coach since 2015, which is not the rule for African teams. Cisse was unlucky at the last World Championship – in the last round they lost to Colombia, although they beat the Poles and did not lose to the Japanese. But this time, despite the loss of Sadio Mane due to injury, and despite Edouard Mendy’s mistake in the first round, they pulled themselves together. Of course, the group was frankly lucky. As usual, the organizer of the tournament did not get the most formidable opponents.
And Qatar itself is the weakest host team in World Cup history. But Ecuador planned to play better against the Africans in the decisive match, and Senegal broke them. Ismaila Sarr will now get a ticket from the Championship because the Watford forward is the absolute record holder of Group A for aggravations of the game, we like his athleticism and calmness.
To take a penalty, looking into the eyes of the goalkeeper, and not at the ball – proof of composure. Hitting straight into the corner, specifically arching the foot, is proof of technical prowess. In Koulibaly, no one doubted, that Senegal has a decent right-back Sabali from Betis, and more importantly, that there is a confident team and even a reserve.
It is clear that Senegal has low chances for a sensation – the passage of England, which, under the leadership of Southgate, conquers the peaks. But the Three Lions have a worthy opponent, much more dangerous than Maguire and Kane would like. The poster with a photo of Bouba Diop had the caption “real lions never die”, which describes the essence of the Senegal team.
Of course, they can lose to England, but they will fight to the end. The Lions of Taranga dream of proving to their European brothers in symbolism that it was not in vain that they took Salah, a ticket to Qatar, and the African Cup from the hero of the Premier League.