World Cup Preview: Senegal v Colombia

Who? Senegal - Colombia
Where? Samara Arena, Samara
When? June 28, 16:00 (CET local time)

Senegal (Omri Tancman)

After a long draught of appearances in World Cups, Senegal is arriving to its last game of the group stage knowing that all they need to do is not to lose to Colombia. To do so, Senegal must keep a clean sheet. The task will not be easy. Senegal hasn’t managed to maintain a clean sheet against Poland or Japan and the mission will not be easier against Colombia. The responsibility for this important mission lies very much on the bold shoulders of Kalidou Koulibaly.

Koulibaly, one of the best central defenders in the world, leads the defence of Napoli since 2014 and has been constantly linked to the biggest clubs in the world. Diego Maradona, Napoli’s legend, stated this year that if Koulibaly was white he would be playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Koulibaly himself tries not to give too much importance to racial issues. When referring to Maradona’s praises he himself said that "some black players are already at the best clubs in the world and I hope to be part of that one day, too."

Koulibaly’s somewhat independent attitude resonates also to his perspective towards Senegal’s decisive match against Colombia. According to Koulibaly the most important thing is that they are totally independent. According to the strong commanding Centre Back “when Senegal depends only on itself it is very good.” In a way, this phrase represents a wider state of mind of current Senegalese football. Koulibaly’s responsibility is to rise to the occasion and to make sure the game against Colombia can be a demonstration of independence.     

Colombia (Idan Seggev)

With the back against the wall, Colombia managed to achieve a wonderful 3-0 victory over Poland which keeps their chance to qualify alive. It was a completely different team who controlled the match since the kick off and took advantage their supremacy on the field in order to score three beautiful goals in front of 42,800 crazy fans. The most exciting moment, of course, was to see El Tigre Falcao fulfill his dream completely by scoring a goal in the World Cup.

Despite all the joy, Colombia still achieved nothing until now.  Their last match of the group stage will be against Senegal, which proved already that they can be very dangerous, even though their made a draw against Japan.  The good news is that Colombia depends on itself and with a win they will qualify for sure to the next round. There is a possibility that even a draw can be enough but only if Poland, which is already been eliminated, will beat Japan.

Defensive midfielder, Carlos Sanchez, will return to the starting lineup instead of Barrios while Mateus Uribe, who came in as a sub against Poland and played well, will start next to him. Pekerman won't seem to make changes besides this one, and most probably that we'll see the same lineup. Even though it'll be a clash between two physical teams, Juan Fernando Quintero will continue to receive credit from Pekerman due to his great performances so far. The Colombian fans are on their way to Samara to support their national team and make them feel like they play in Barranquilla in their most important match since the quarter final against Brazil four years ago. With the current atmosphere and form, I won't gamble against them.

Canceled or delayed flight? Check your compensation with BabaGol's new partner - AirHelp. AirHelp is here to enforce your passenger rights and make sure you get your rightful compensation. Try it out HERE.

World Cup Preview: Japan v Senegal

Who? Japan - Senegal
Where? Yekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg
When? June 24, 17:00 (CET local time)

Japan (Yossi Medina)

Japan made one of the biggest surprises of the first matchday. No one could imagine that they will defeat Colombia in such an impressive play. Some will say that the early red card for Carlos Sánchez changed the game, but many times we saw that playing against 10 players could be more difficult.

After the game, one name has been repeated several times – the winning goal scorer, Yuya Osako. Japan has many representatives in the Bundesliga and Osako is one of them, while he played in the last season for FC Köln. After the relegation of his club at the end of the season, Osako signed for Weder Bremen and will start his fifth season in the German top flight.

Defeating Senegal will improve their chances to qualify for the next stage. Japan has some good memories of playing against African teams, like their win against Cameroon in the 2010 World Cup. That campaign was the last that they managed to qualify for the knockout stage.

The Blue Samurais are ready to have some good time in their next match. Unlike the expectation, Japan can find their way to a glorious World Cup appearance. All they need to do now it to give another great performance.

Senegal (Omri Tancman)

Before the tournament started, not many expected the game between Senegal and Japan to be considered as a clash over the leadership of group H. After the surprising victory of Japan and the very impressive performance of Senegal against Poland, the upcoming match can be decisive for both teams and probably send one of them to the next stage.

The impressive performance of Aliou Cisse’s players might have been seen as a surprise but Senegal’s dominance and bursts of attacks reminded to many pundits the team of 2002. It seems that the team of 2002 and its spirit overshadow this team. For example, the first match was dedicated to Bruno Metsu, Senegal’s coach in 2002. Moreover, in 2002 Senegal’s second match was against Denmark that has beaten Uruguay 2-1, a result which surprisingly made both teams leaders in their group. This scenario seems to be repeated up until now. Both Senegal and Japan managed to secure important and somewhat surprising wins against Poland and Colombia. According to this scenario, Senegal should end its match against Japan in a draw.

But the spirit of 2002 doesn’t overshadow the current squad only in possible similar scenarios. It lies with the guidance of players from that generation, such as Khalilou Fadiga, who praised the performance of Youssouf Sabaly and Mbaye Niang during the game against Poland. Furthermore, the spirit of 2002 lies in the need of players to be remembered as a generation of their own. As Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal’s Central Defender stated after the match against Poland “we think a lot about the generation of 2002. Now there is a 2018 generation. We have shown it.” A win against Japan can be a first step to prove that Koulibaly is right.

Canceled or delayed flight? Check your compensation with BabaGol's new partner - AirHelp. AirHelp is here to enforce your passenger rights and make sure you get your rightful compensation. Try it out HERE.

World Cup Preview: Poland v Senegal

Who? Poland - Senegal
Where? Otkritie Arena, Moscow
When? June 19, 17:00 (CET local time)

Poland (Eden Roitfarb)

With the tournament being held at unpopular old rival Russia, Poland would hope to bring many fans to the nearby country that would push the team forward. Additionally, they also come with a loaded squad, notwithstanding some problems: Robert Lewandowski needs no introduction but is dealing with ongoing transfer rumors and his future in FC Bayern is unknown at the time. The Biało-Czerwoni need him focused and free-minded in order to succeed. Another issue is the condition of defensive anchor Kamil Glik, who injured his shoulder in training after attempting an irresponsible bicycle kick. Originally the belief was that he is going to miss the tournament, but currently his status is questionable.

Traditionally, a very strong position for the Poles is between the posts. The previous generation of Jerzy Dudek and Artur Boruc was succeeded by current top two Wojciech Szczęsny and
Łukasz Fabiański. The competition between them is ongoing for years as they played together in Arsenal and Legia Warszawa, and it is still widely unknown who coach Adam Nawałka will pick for number 1. Both have valid cases: Fabiański played more games this season and was great with Swansea City, but was ultimately relegated. Szczęsny played in a higher level for Juventus and was an understudy for legendary Gigi Buffon but recorded less appearances. To add confusion, both played 45 minutes each in last week’s friendlies, as it looks this decision would go down to the wire. Whichever goalkeeper will get the national responsibility, the Polish have a pair of gloves that can be trusted.

Senegal (Omri Tancman)

Senegal and Poland share some similarities. Both rely heavily on an attacking star player, Mane for Senegal and Lewandowski for Poland. Both present one of the fiercest midfields in their confederation. Poland won 63% of its challenges, which is the third best after Spain and Portugal in Europe. In Africa, Senegal was the most efficient tackling team with a winning rate of 61% of the tackles.

It might not be surprising that Senegal is very strong in tackling and in other attributes related to dedication and combat in midfield. This may result from the image shown by Senegal manager, Aliou Cisse. Cisse, Senegal’s captain in its first World Cup in 2002 was a strong commanding central midfielder. His charisma and know-how are well reflected in the toughness presented in the current Senegalese game.

But other than preaching for strength and commitment, Cisse’s role before Senegal’s match against Poland is far greater than tactical preparation and motivational speeches. Cisse was there. He led Senegal to its greatest win of all time against France and he encapsulates great memories from Senegal’s legendary campaign in 2002. Therefore, 16 years later and before the return of Senegal to the biggest stage of football, Cisse is a real time testimony for the capabilities of Senegalese football. When looking at the bench during the chant of the national anthems, what Senegalese players might see is not just their coach, but an inspiration that can lift them for further glory.

Canceled or delayed flight? Check your compensation with BabaGol's new partner - AirHelp. AirHelp is here to enforce your passenger rights and make sure you get your rightful compensation. Try it out HERE.

The Lions of Taranga Roar Once Again

In modern football, there are a lot of golden generations of players. To mention a few, the Dutch national team of the 70’s, the Brazilian national team of 1982 and the French national team of 1998-2000 touched many supporters and were remembered long after their last match was played. In Senegal, the national team of 2002 is remembered as such.

The national team of 2002 is considered as the greatest in the history of Senegal. Its importance is marked by its achievements but nonetheless due to one remarkable game. This team managed to qualify to the quarter finals of the 2002 World Cup but its most memorable moment happened in the opening match of the tournament, which was also the debut match ever of Senegal in the World Cup.

Senegal played against France The French team, the reigning World Champions and European ChampionS at that time was a clear favorite against the unexperienced Senegalese squad. The inferiority of Senegal was a reminder to more than 250 years of French colonialism and subordination over Senegal.

Therefore, the surprising victory of Senegal, 1-0, was not only a simple victory of one team over the other. This victory was a symbol to the liberation of Senegal from French colonialism. For many people in Senegal winning this game was an opportunity to definitively overcome French colonialism and to revenge it. With this victory, many Senegalese saw themselves equal to French. One of the best illustrations to the importance this game had can be found in the words of the Senegalese President in 2002, Abdoulaye Wade, who said that “this day is a special day in the life of a nation.”

One of the most important figures of that team was Aliou Cisse. Cisse was the captain of the golden team but nowadays his importance is even bigger. Cisse is the current head coach of the Senegalese national football team. However, it seems that his role is not limited to team selection and tactical instructions. It is much more than that. In many ways, his role is to be the link between the current squad and Senegal’s golden generation, and with that link to establish solid foundations for Senegalese football for years to come.

Interestingly, the 2002 team is seen very much as a group and in many ways operates like one. For example, in 2012 when Cisse’s appointment to the national team was considered, El-Hadji Diouf, former star of the national team, stated that “the Senegalese football federation should begin to have confidence in its local resources like France has done with Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc.”

Cisse was eventually appointed as head coach. His appointment, combined with the talent of the current squad that qualified to the 2018 World Cup created constant comparisons between the current squad and the 2002 squad. There is also an interesting link and unique relationships between both generations.

The current squad offers several talents including world-class players such as winger Sadio Mane and central defender Kalidou Koulibali. Mane, who was the runner-up African player of the year in 2017, is described by many as the heir of El-Hadji Diouf, who won this title in 2001 and 2002. The connection between both players doesn’t stop here. Diouf himself has stated that Mane is his successor, and Mane named El-Hadji Diuof as his Premier League hero. The main reason, according to Mane, is the contribution Diouf had to the Senegalese football and especially his contribution to the campaign of Senegal in 2002, which inspired Mane as a kid.

The connection between generations is not limited only to Mane and Diouf. The staff itself is consisted of many former players from 2002, alongside with Cisse. Instead of relying on foreigners to share their wisdom with the local players, Cisse has chosen to surround himself with national football legends from Senegal’s golden era. Tony Silva, the starting goalkeeper of Senegal in 2002, is the current goalkeeping coach. Omar Daf, who was the starting defender, is the current assistant coach. Lamine Diatta, another pillar of that team, is the current team’s coordinator.

The presence of players from the golden generation is highly important, not only for their professional attributes but also since they can inspire the young generation with stories from the good old days. One example can be found in the fact that a day after the team has qualified to the World Cup, Ferdinand Colly, another great player from the golden generation, was invited to have a dinner with the squad and share his experience. Moreover, when interviewed after the qualification to the World Cup in Russia, Khalilou Fadiga, former attacking midfielder of Senegal in 2002 said in a very open fashion: “I am in contact constantly with Kalidou Koulibali and with Cheikhou (Kouyate) that calls me all the time, Keita Balde and Mbaye Niang. There is a lot of respect between both generations and the main reason Cisse is there is to help them over-achieve our accomplishments.”

These connections and special relationship between the current squad and the golden generation players seem like part of a larger plan that is meant to elevate Senegalese football. One of the main errors that the Senegalese association admits today is that it did not use the momentum and the funds entered after the success in 2002 to create solid foundations of football in Senegal. These foundations for the future are created in many cases by creating a link with the past and being inspired by it. The voices heard in Senegal, to encourage local football knowledge and not to rely on foreign wisdom can serve also as a lesson to other African teams. It should not be surprising that this voice comes from Senegalese football. After all, its greatest moment was a symbol for the final liberation of the country from foreign sovereignty in it. 


Canceled or delayed flight? Check your compensation with BabaGol's new partner - AirHelp. AirHelp is here to enforce your passenger rights and make sure you get your rightful compensation. Try it out HERE.