Senegal’s World Cup campaign began rather poorly, with defensive mistakes leading to a 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands in their opening game — equaling the total number of goals they had conceded in seven games in winning the Africa Cup of Nations — but the Champions of Africa have turned things around.
They beat host nation Qatar, 3-1 in their second game, and have now sealed a place in the knockout rounds with a 2-1 win over Ecuador today. So the defense still may not be what it was, but they found a way to win, earning and converting a first-half penalty and then finding the eventual winner almost immediately after Ecuador, who had been playing for a draw from the start, had equalized.
Édouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly both started, as expected, with the latter taking the captain’s armband, as usual. Their personal performances have mirrored the team’s improvement: K2 putting the cherry on top with the aforementioned winning goal, a first-time finish on a set piece — which we know he can do! — for his first ever (!) international goal.
Koulibaly wore a special armband in memory of Papa Boupa Diop, who passed away exactly two years ago after a long battle with ALS. Diop’s No.19 was also proudly displayed by the Senegal fans, who brought the party atmosphere, as usual.
Watford’s Ismaïla Sarr won and scored the penalty in a first-half that Senegal had largely controlled and dominated. Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo equalized on a corner, ending the goal-streak of Enner Valencia, who had scored Ecuador’s six previous goals in all competitions. Ecuador pressed for a second equalizer, but Senegal stood strong and saw out the three points. They will be without Gana Gueye however in the Last 16 after he had picked up his second yellow of the tournament.
In the other game, the Netherlands took care of business against Qatar with a 2-0 win. Cody Gakpo scored another goal, his third, adding to his future transfer fee, and Frenkie De Jong made sure of things early in the second half. The Dutch advance as group-winners, and will take on the second place team from Group B in the Last 16 (Iran? USA?). Senegal will face the Group B winners, likely to be England.