Karma bites Teranga Lions

Karma can be such a funny thing. It always shows up when you least expect it. Ten years ago, Bruno Metsu’s Terranga Lions, making their first appearance at the finals opened the 2002 FIFA World Cup with a monumental upset in Seoul World Cup Stadium. Senegal raised the flag of Africa high at that World Cup.  I still remember that day like yesterday because I feigned illness so that I could skip school to watch the game back in Junior High School.

That World Cup featured a stunning early exit for both Henry and France as the defending World and European champions were eliminated in the group stage after failing to score a goal in all three games. Les Bleus were expected to kick off the World Cup with a commanding win but El Hadji Diouf’s men had other plans. Senegal’s golden generation had reached the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations final a few months before beating Les Bleus .They narrowly missed the AFCON title in Mali ,losing to  Cameroon  on penalties.

Before the game form and stats were in France’s favour as their three top men Henry, Trezeguet and Cisse were the top scorers of their respective leagues. Henry and Trezeguet had both scored 24 goals in the EPL and Serie A respectively while Cisse scored 22 goals in Ligue 1. Senegal didn’t read the script and stunned Les Bleus in Seoul. Bouba Diop’s 30th minute goal was the only goal of the game.

Ten years on, the country has failed to build on their predecessor’s success story. Unlike this current crop of players, the 2002 team had very good midfielders in Diop, Diao, Fadiga, Amdy Faye and Moussa N’Diaye .Football is not about high profile names. This Senegalese side is a replica of the 2002 French team.

Senegal came to the 2012 CAF’s Nation’s Cup as one of the pre tournament favourites. They brought one of the most lethal striking forces in the history of the Nation’s Cup. Moussa Sow, Mamadou Niang, Souleymane Camara, Dame N’doye, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba were supposed to confirm their status as the new African superstars. Just as they had a hand in France’s elimination ten years ago, Equatorial Guinea, the lowest ranked nation in the tournament kicked them out.

They had no strength in the middle. The team’s strength was in the attack, which failed to jell. Even 11 strikers can’t win a game. Football is all about teamwork.

You reap what you Sow.

Panetolikos striker Henri Camara put Senegal on the map by scoring two goals at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the most memorable one being the golden goal he scored in the Round of 16 against Sweden. Senegal’s most capped player (99 caps) and all-time top scorer (29 goals) broke Swedish hearts with that goal. This goal took the Teranga Lions to the quarter-finals for the only time in their history. Only 3 countries in Africa have been able to go past the 2nd round namely Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010)

At that time, French-born Senegalese striker who had dreamed of representing Les Bleus one day was still a teenager (16). Mamadou Niang’s successor at Fenerbahçe went on to represent France at Youth level before switching to play for the Teranga Lions in 2009.

Sow is one of the most feared strikers in Europe. He had a great 2010-2011 season with Lille by becoming top scorer in Ligue 1 with 25 goals last season and scoring 6 league goals this term before joining his team in Gabon. Yet, he couldn’t replicate that form at the AFCON. Sow was Senegal’s joint top scorer at the AFCON with one goal and scored on his Fenerbache debut. So what went wrong for the Terranga Lions?El Hadji will be the best man to answer those questions.

“The Senegal team has no soul. I have always said that Amara Traore knows nothing. He doesn’t have the level of experience and knowledge to handle the team,”- El Hadji Diouf

 Amara Traore gone as the end for Niang looms

Senegal team captain and top scorer during the AFCON qualifiers dropped him for their match against co-hosts Equatorial Guinea after a disappointing display against Zambia and was substituted at half time by coach Amara Traore. The Qatar-based forward who was Ligue 1’s tops scorer in the two years ago, with 18 goals could not even break into the starting XI for the Teranga Lions’ second match. Demba Ba, Moussa Sow and Dame N’Doye and Papiss Demba are Senegal’s future.

Amara Traore (46) who coached the Teranga Lions at the AFCON (sacked after early AFCON exit), was just a squad player at the 2002 FIFA World Cup as he had reached the end of his career.

“See, Traore and the FA guys used the victory against Cameroon and the qualification to the 2012 Afcon to launch the Teranga Lions as a squad to be reckoned with on the continent, without really checking to see the true capacity of the team.- El Hadji Diouf

 Immortal Camara

The then 19 year old Camara made some cameo appearances at Japan/Korea as he was behind Diouf and his namesake Henri Camara in the pecking order. Souleymane Camara reminds me of immortal Duncan MacLeod, a  character from the Highlander TV series. He made a return to the team after a six year absence.

Camara together with Omar Daf and coach Traore were the only surviving members of the golden generation at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. The most experienced striker in the side couldn’t help the team. He’s never been such a prolific striker although pundits predicted him to be the future of Senegal football. After stints at Monaco he moved to Montpellier via Nice.

He (29) is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career at Montpellier as his five goals have helped the side to secure a second place in Ligue 1, only a point behind league leaders PSG.

“The team is weak, or let me say doesn’t worth the big name pundits give to it and the true status has just been revealed.’’ -Diouf

N’Doye proves Diouf right

The former Liverpool and two time African player of the year was a pest to opposing defenders. His pace, skills and vision was the reason for Senegal’s success at Japan and Korea. One of the best divers in the game, Diouf was elected to the 2002 FIFA World Cup All-Star team.

Diouf, who currently plays for Doncaster Rovers in the English Football League Championship and is completing his coaching course in England, was handed a five-year ban from all football activities last year by the Senegal Football Federation.

‘’The FA people are jealous of Senegal’s 2002 generation.’’-Diouf

 

Dame N’Doye scored Senegal’s first goal at the AFCON. The FC Copenhagen striker who scored on his debut scored in Senegal’s 1-2 loss to Africa’s champions. Last season’s Danish Superliga best player and top scorer (25 goals in 31 games) made his Senegal debut exactly 365 days ago.

The striker had scored eight times in 14 matches this season before the AFCON.  He has eclipsed Todi Jonsson’s record of 69 goals to become FC Copenhagen’s all-time top goal scorer. He also scored on his AFCON return for his club side. The striker now has 9 goals in 15 games. Diouf’s predicitions proved to be right.

Dembas fail to emulate Diao

Former Liverpool midfielder (now at Stoke) came into his own on the international stage for Senegal. Many will remember his glorious goal against Denmark in the 2002 World Cup, a move which involved Camara, Fadiga and Diouf, with the goal being a contender for goal of the tournament.

Together with Demba Ba (29),Papiss Demba Cissé (31) had scored 60 top flight goals last year but both managed to score 0 goals at the AFCON. Newcastle’s latest signing, Cissé Freiburg’s top scorer last season with 22 goals, only behind Bundesliga’s top goal scorer Mario Gómez‎ of Bayern Munich who scored 28 goals.

The former set a record for the most goals scored by an African in a single Bundesliga season. The record was previously held by Ghana’s Tony Yeboah who scored 20 goals with Eintracht Frankfurt in 1993.Demba Cisse scored the winning goal on his Newcastle debut.

“I predicted the failure of Senegal at the 2012 Afcon and it has happened.’’-Diouf

Diop has not stopped kicking the ball over the Ba

West Ham’s Papa Bouba Diop is well known for scoring the first goal of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The midfielder ended the tournament with three goals, having also scored a brace against Uruguay. The midfielder was not a prolific goal scorer but surprisingly Diop was Senegal’s top scorer at the World Cup.

Ba’s only goal of the AFCON qualifiers was  the most important, a stoppage-time winner after he came off the bench against Cameroon. Unlike Diop, Ba’s goal scoring form at Newcastle is unbelievable. December 2011’s Premier League Player of the Month had scored 15 goals by the time he left Newcastle to play for Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations . He left for the tournament on a high note, scoring the first in a 3–0 home win over Manchester United, the team’s first victory against the league champions in over a decade. Two weeks later, Demba Ba became the flop of a tournament he was expected to make his own. He scored on his EPL return in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.

They [FA] don’t want to associate us [2002 generation] with the team. Some of us have experience.”-Diouf

Exception

Khalilou Fadiga is my greatest Senegalese footballer  of all-time. Fadiga made the headlines for both the wrong and good reasons when he was  accused of stealing jewellery whilst out shopping.

The former Inter, Auxerre and Bolton star was an instrumental member of the golden generation. Khali is a fighter.He decided against retirement despite his heart problems. He is a legend in Senegal.His people still talk about his heroics.

Issiar Dia was my best Senegalese player at the AFCON.He showed glimpses of brilliance , often deployed on the right side of the attack and created a lot of goal scoring chances for the ‘star studded strikers’ who failed to convert them.The Fenerbache winger is one for the future.

The Senegal football federation (FSF) are now after African Champions coach Hervé Renard. If he signs for the Terranga Lions, his first task will be to find a way to get the best out of his players. Trying to squeeze as many of those strikers as possible into his lineup will be a disaster.

 
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