From five down to one. After Nigeria’s exit from the 2018 World Cup, Senegal’s Teranga Lions carry Africa’s hopes at the global showpiece in Russia where they are now the last team standing.
The Teranga Lions, whose only previous appearance in 2002 saw them qualify for the quarter-finals, face Colombia this afternoon in a make-or-break tie to reach the last 16.
Prolific forward Sadio Mane will need to turn on the magic and lead the pride of the Teranga Lions with a sheer sense of will to achieve that feat against a side that gives away too little.
Their defence, which had more leaks than a faulty radiator against Japan, needs to stand up and be counted
After being held to a 2-2 draw by Japan, Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was critical of his pacy and powerful side, saying their opponents were the better team, and called on forward Mane to step it up.
“Frankly, we were not very good. A player like Sadio Mane is a player with a lot of expectations and he is one of the players under the spotlight,” said Cisse,” said Cisse who captained Senegal when they defied the odds to reach the last eight in 2002.
Cisse was particularly unhappy with the way that Senegal twice threw away the lead.
Victory would have sealed Senegal’s qualification into the last 16, but they now face a Colombia side in Samara which beat Poland 3-0.
Going into the final round of games in Group H, Japan and Senegal have four points each, Colombia have three and pointless Poland are already eliminated.
It means that a draw for Cisse’s side will be enough to progress. Belgium and England await the two teams to emerge from Group H.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman will look up to James Rodriguez.
Seasoned coach Yasin ‘Titch’ Osman believes the Senegalese can give the continent a reason to smile.
“They have some tactical challenges, especially in defence, but their strengths outweigh their weaknesses.
“They play as a unit and in Mane they have a world-class player who has he ability to turn around the game for them, but he is yet to set the stage alight as he does for [his English Premiership club] Liverpool, but being the decider, they know what is at stake, more so, when they are carrying the hopes of not only their country, but the continent as a whole,” he said.
However, Osman bemoaned African teams’ common weakness of showing too much respect to opponents.
“In most of the games at the World Cup, African teams conceded goals needlessly in the dying minutes and that shows lack of concentration. We also tend to give high-fancied opponents too much respect and they capitalise on our inferiority complex. And instead of working on such shortfalls, we cling to that self-denial
Former Flames coach Ernest ‘Wire’ Mtawali also said Senegal have the potential to sail through “only if they can work on their shortfalls, especially giving away the ball far too cheaply and loss of concentration, but they are quite a string side with a lot of hunger and the good thing is that they have good team spirit”.