Qatar on brink of World Cup exit after Senegal defeat
What you need to know:
- Goals from Boulaye Dia, Famara Diedhiou and Bamba Dieng were enough to beat Qatar, who will be eliminated if Group A leaders Netherlands avoid defeat to Ecuador later on Friday.
In Doha, Qatar
Senegal came to Qatar as the Africa champions and the highest ranked team on the continent at position 18.
Qatar were the hosts and first time holders of the Asian title but were ranked 50th in the world by Fifa, lower than even their fellow continental representatives, Iran, ranked 10, Japan 24 and South Korea 28.
Both Teranga Lions and Qatar had lost by similar 2-0 scores in their opening Group “A” matches, the former to the Netherlands and to the latter to Ecuador.
It was going to be a fight for survival and the Teranga Lions eventually triumphed 3-1, their biggest win at the World Cup, at Al Thumama Stadium.
The press here in Qatar had set the tone, warning that the hosts risked earning the dubious distinction of becoming only the second host nation in the history of the tournament to be knocked out in the second round.
South Africa were the first in the 2010.
Rather than inspire the Qataris, the circumstances seemed to scare the team and the nation, a second loss would just be too much.
There wasn’t much chatter locally about how the home team would rescue their World Cup campaign and finding a Qatari in the team’s colour on the streets was a long shot.
Even foreigners living in Qatar had little hope for the hosts and with good reasons.
The difference in class told immediately as Senegal took control minutes after kick-off with Qatar relying on the very busy Afif Akram, who plays for local side Al Sadd, to ask questions of the Teranga Lions.
After darting raids by Monaco’s Krepin Diatta and Idrissa Gueye of Everton the Qatari crowd seemed to realise they were in trouble and after some spirited booing of Senegal when in possession, they went silent.
That came when Boulaye Dia took full advantage of Qatar central defender Khoukhi Oualem’s horrible fumble in the danger area to fire the loose ball low into the net on 41 minutes
A confident Senegal began stroking the ball around and got their second minutes into the second, a beautifully headed goal by Famara Diedhiou.
Substitute Mohammed Muntari pulled one goal back for Qatar in the 78 minute as the crowd seemingly got a second wind. Could the Qataris mount a come-back?
Such a thought was banished several minutes later by Bamba Ndieng, stabbing the ball in after some good work by fellow substitute Iliman Diaye of Sheffield United six minutes from time.
By then, as they did in their opening match, many Qatari supporters had started walking out of the stadium as the beautiful game continued.
When the final whistle was blown the stands were already half empty, but the Senegalese support, in patches at the air-conditioned stadium, would have cared less, gyrating and chanting to the throbbing drum beats of the West Africa legion that echoed from the empty spaces left.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has already shifted focus.
“We were solid. Very balanced play. Collectively we put in our effort. We were patient. This is not the end of the road. We have to get to the last 16. We have another game and we have our objectives,” he said.
Senegal meet Ecuador next Tuesday.