Article: Can Senegal Replicate their Quarter Finals Run of 2002?

My Football FactsArticles | 2022 FIFA World Cup

By Jonathan Lewis | 22nd Oct 2022

African nations are forever disadvantaged at international tournaments, with many players of African heritage that are born on European territory opting to line up for their nation of birth rather than their parent’s homeland.

These nations are left with a much smaller talent pool of players and know any emerging talents that are dual-nationals are extremely prone to being poached. With domestic football being at a poor level in many parts of Africa it is often not seen as a viable location to develop as a player.

When a player of African heritage grows up in France and develops at a French academy it is always likely they will opt to play for the bigger footballing nation unless they are not wanted in which case many of these African nations simply have to take the scraps that the big nations do not require.

For these reasons an African nation can never truly harbour hopes of winning a FIFA World Cup; Senegal is the current African champion and therefore represent the continent’s greatest hope at this year’s tournament.

According to the outright FIFA World Cup betting odds, Senegal is a massive outsider with a price of +8000. This essentially means that 12 nations from Europe and South America are preferred over them, which shows the huge disparity in quality between African football and the sport’s strongest continents. African nations view lengthy runs in the World Cup as a huge success and are realistic in accepting they do not have much chance of being victorious in the competition.

Senegal backed by Ballon d’Or candidate Sadio Mane is Africa’s greatest hope this year and their idea of success would be to make the quarter-finals just like the famous side of 2002 did. Captained by current manager Aliou Cisse they shocked France in the opening group game before earning a draw against Denmark while down to 10 men and finishing off with a thriller six-goal draw against Uruguay.

Senegal then went on to defeat Sweden in the round of 16 to reach the quarter-finals where they were unfortunately beaten by Turkey. The 2002 run represents the sides and Africa’s greatest tournament run – Cameroon equalled the feat at Italia 1990 and Ghana did so at South Africa in 2010. Senegal is bidding to be the first African nation to reach a World Cup quarter-final twice and with what is very likely their strongest squad ever they hold genuine hopes of doing so.

Talisman Mane is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world and he has already delivered in a high-pressure moment for his nation, dispatching a penalty against Egypt, which delivered Africa’s greatest prize to his home nation.

There is no doubt that to achieve success in Qatar Mane will have to carry his nation on his back; they will first have to navigate a tricky group with the Netherlands as well as the young and exciting side Ecuador and hosts Qatar. A round of 16 tie could possibly be against England with the possibility of facing France and Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Senegal faces a tough task to replicate the side of 2002 in Korea and Japan, or even to go one further, but if any side from the West African nation can it is the side that exists right now – they have already delivered a prize that no other Senegal team has before in the form of the African Cup of Nations title.

Jonathan Lewis is an MFF sports writer

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