Senegal ‘Africa’s best hope’ for World cup: envoy

Qatar will be the third ​​World Cup that the Teranga Lions have qualified for since 2002.

Senegal’s national team is capable of advancing beyond group stages during the World Cup, which is set to kick-off in six days,  he Ambassador of Senegal to Qatar told local news on Saturday. 

The team’s participation in this major international sporting event among 32 countries is an influential moment for the African continent, Mouhamed Habibou said, adding that Senegalese fans, both from Senegal and those residing in the GCC, Europe, and the United States, are heading to Doha to support their team. 

Senegal qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, their first ever, and immediately made an impact, defeating reigning champion France en route to the round of 16.

After failing to qualify for the World Cup once more before 2018, they are now set to make their third appearance after defeating Egypt in the qualifiers.

Habibou added that Senegal, along with other qualified African countries such as Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia, and Cameroon, aspires to represent the African continent well during the tournament through sporting achievements and artistic performances that reflect African culture.

 Senegal has professional players who play in the most prestigious European clubs, one of them being  Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane, whose pivotal penalty kicks this year helped his nation qualify for both the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 30-year-old striker was  recently selected for Senegal’s World Cup team in Qatar, despite his ongoing injury.

Senegal was placed in Group A alongside Qatar, Ecuador, and the Netherlands. On November 21, the Teranga Lions will face the Netherlands in their first game of the tournament.

Only three African teams have reached the World Cup round of eight, but Senegal did so in their first-ever appearance in 2002.

Despite that rousing success, Senegal missed the next three World Cups, and 2022 will be their first-ever qualification for consecutive World Cups since Russia 2018.

As the current champions of Africa after winning this year’s African Cup, the Teranga Lions face high expectations.

Senegal’s team captain, Kalidou Koulibaly,  recently told Al Jazeera that the team has their eyes set on pushing the envelope at the World Cup.

“I don’t know about the other African teams but as captain of Senegal we are not going there to reach the normal ceiling of Africa, which is the quarter-finals,” the Chelsea centre-back said. 

“I believe we can compete for the trophy like the other countries from different continents. We have no business at the World Cup if the plan is just to participate and go home after the group. That is such a defeatist mentality. If you go to battle thinking you are not good enough then you’ve already lost.”

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