When Senegal qualified for the 2002 World Cup, they were drawn in Group A alongside Denmark, defending champions France, and Uruguay. The Teranga Lions were making their first ever World Cup appearance, and were widely expected to be the whipping boys.
Tables turned however in one of the biggest World Cup shocks ever, as they beat 1998 Champions France 1-0. They would later draw their next two group games, 1-1 with Denmark and 3-3 with Uruguay, to qualify for the knockout stages, where they beat Sweden 2-1, only to be stopped by Turkey in the quarters.
El Hadji Diouf, Henri Camara, Salif Diao, Tony Sylva, Lamine Diatta are some of the big names that carry the memories of Senegal’s golden generation. Diouf was in Gabon where he watched Senegal crash out of the AFCON and he surely misses the golden days!
“2002 was like a crazy thing for us. I don’t think anyone will ever forget 2002 right now. 2002 was like a miracle for African teams. We used to play with fun, we played hard, we played to make Africa proud. And I think today that’s the only difference between our generation and this generation.”
Asked whether he will be in a Senegal shirt anytime soon, the 36-year old doesn’t rule out the possibility.
“We will see, as of now, I’m working with President. I’m a goodwill ambassador and a personal advisor, and I have to see what’s going one and what’s not gpoing on. I have to see what can be done to see the Senegalese progess and what we can do to get better in the next step.”
But Diouf lauded the efforts made by the Senegalese team and it’s coach Aliou Cisse, urging them to ignore critics and now shift focus to the World Qualifiers.
Under Cisse who is one of the only four native African coaches to come to the tournament, the Lions of Teranga have risen to the status of Africa’s top side in the world rankings and they remain in the running to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Senegal had not even made it beyond the group stage at a Cup of Nations since reaching the semi-finals in Egypt in 2006.Follow @Muisyo_