Population: 10,200,000
Area: 196,190 km²
Capital: Dakar
Language: French

Senegal won arguably the most difficult qualifying group in history of African football. They put teams like Algeria and Egypt behind them before edging out Morocco on goaldifference to top the group.
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Participations: None
Best placing: None
Topscorer: None

May 31 - SEN v FRA  in Seoul
Jun 06 - SEN v DEN  in Daegu
Jun 11 - SEN v URU  in Suwon

El Hadj Diouf is a quick, brave and mobile centerforward with an eye for goal. He scored eight goals in the qualification rounds and might be the hero for Senegal in this World Cup.

WCA VERDICT: First round exit
Senegal is a team riding a positive wave at the moment with a charismatic coach, players full of youthful enthusiasm and a very good African Nations Cup performance behind them, but we believe they come up short in this company. They are capable of taking points from all these teams on a good day, even France, but three tough games on the trot in a World Cup? No.


by Peter Goldstein

    They're delirious over their Lions in Senegal, and why not? They came from nowhere to outpoint big names Morocco and Egypt in the qualifiers, then made it all the way to the final of the Nations Cup in Mali before losing to Cameroon on penalty kicks. Coach Bruno Metsu has rock-star hair and dispenses at least six good quotes a day; he's given the players scope to express themselves on the field, and the result is a team of enthusiasm and exceptional togetherness. They dedicate their wins to the people of Senegal, and the people respond by taking to the streets, dancing, sounding horns, and waving flags. It's not a football team, it's a national holiday.

    But they can play a little football, too. Tony Sylva was voted the best keeper at the Nations Cup, and appears to have the complete package: reflexes, positioning, pure athleticism, and decisiveness in coming off his line. He had a few moments of nervousness in Mali, but should be one of the team's top assets this summer.

    The back line in the 4-4-2 has both strengths and weaknesses. Ferdinand Coly, a late bloomer, has emerged as one of the best right backs in Africa. He hurls himself around the pitch, dreadlocks flying, and matches his desire with pace, strong tackling, and effective close marking. On the left is Omar Daf, not as spectacular, but agile, excellent in positioning, and a precise tackler. The centerbacks aren't quite of the same quality. Captain Aliou Cisse reads the game well and is strong in the air, and Lamine Diatta is powerful, can score from corners, and covers a lot of ground for a big man. But both can be beaten for pace, and at times they struggle with opponents' long balls down the middle.

    The midfield offers more power than style, and as a result the attack often relies on the long ball. The one midfielder capable of inspiration is Khalilou Fadiga: he has a marvelous left foot, and is excellent on free kicks. But he's not really a playmaker, and can disappear on the left side at times. On the right is Pape Sarr, aggressive and a solid all-rounder. Makhtar Ndiaye, with good ball skills and a knack of getting into the penalty area, might see some time as well; Moussa Ndiaye (no relation), more powerful and less precise, is another possibility here.

    The two defensive-oriented midfielders are excellent. Alassane Salif Diao is a leader on the field and a first-class ball-winner, an active big man with surprisingly quick feet. He gets forward more than you'd expect. Youngster Bouba Pape Diop doesn't have quite the pedigree yet, but is similar in style, and when the two are on the field together they can really shut down the opposition playmakers. (Metsu calls them "The Extraterrestrial" and "The Mastodon," which gives you an idea what to expect when you interview the coach).

    The undisputed star of the show is up front: Ousseynou El Hadj Diouf of Lens, at 21 the newest sensation of African football. He's small, amazingly quick, superb on the ball, and capable of remarkable flights of fancy. He's excellent with back to goal, where out of nowhere he'll turn and dribble, or send a through ball, or fire off an unexpected shot. He can be a bit hotheaded, and occasionally will go overboard trying to draw a foul. But he's a marvel, and looks set to become one of the all-time African greats. He's partnered by Henri Camara, very fast and an exciting dribbler, but an inconsistent finisher. Camara usually plays out on the right side, giving El Hadj Diouf plenty of room to do his thing. If Camara struggles, new face Pape Thiaw might get some minutes as well. Souleymane Camara (no relation), only 19, is the joker; fast and direct, he'll see action as a substitute.

    The Senegalese are experienced professionals, and many of them are regulars in the French leagues. At the same time, they don't have the talent of Cameroon, and it's unreasonable to expect them to go far in the tournament. But they'll be a welcome guest, and should add some life to what might otherwise be a drab group A, which besides France has only Denmark and Uruguay to offer. Don't bet on them; just sit back and listen to Metsu charm the media, and watch his men play with their special brand of team spirit. And if you like what you see, root for a little magic to send the fans into the streets once more.


    Senegal has never participated in the World Cup before.




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