18/04/2024

Ismaila Sarr opened the scoring late in the second half in Tuesday's clash between Senegal and Ecuador (Image: FIFA World Cup Twitter)

Senegal has beaten Ecuador 2-1 to qualify for the Round of 16 for just the second time in history and set up a clash with England on Sunday morning.

It was a simple equation, the winner moves on and plays in the knockout stages, whilst the loser goes home.

For the vast majority of the game, Senegal seemed like the only team aware of the stakes. A captain’s goal from Kalidou Koulibaly gave Senegal the advantage to reach the Round of 16, the first time his nation had done so since 2006.

Ecuador was wholly outplayed on Tuesday morning. The tone was set from the third minute when Idrissa Gueye found himself alone in the box to get on the end of a cross. He couldn’t find the back of the net but it was closer than what Ecuador had produced.

It was a gruelling first half as the Lions threatened to score on each attack, they moved the ball through their front third with ease but just couldn’t land the shots to go ahead. They had 10 shots in the first half, Ismaïla Sarr’s goal was the only one on target.

In the dying moments of the first half, Sarr was in on goal before being brought down by Piero Hincapié to give away a penalty. With the whole world watching on, he laced the no-look penalty coolly into the bottom right corner.

Senegal’s first half had the potential to trouble any of the remaining opposition, making slight adjustments to get shots on target is the key to putting fear in the hearts of opponents. It’s enemy on the night was the half-time break as it killed momentum and confidence in conditioning.

The entire crowd were on their feet for all 100 minutes of the game, with minimal rest breaks. The spectators were like wind in the sails of the Senegalese who were dealing with an amped-up Ecuadorian side ready to fight for their spot in the Round of 16.

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The second half was a more even contest, Senegal had dropped off and refused to make substitutes for nearly 30 minutes. Both sides built the ball up with slow play and used the width of the pitch to create opportunities.

Senegal defenders were flat-footed at the corner that gave Ecuador the equaliser as the ball fell at the feet of Moisés Caicedo who was able to tap it in.

Just as Ecuador were beginning to dream of possibilities, a rude awakening came from the strong frame of Kalidou Koulibaly. Not even two minutes after drawing level, Ecuador found themselves behind once again and its spirit was visibly broken.

Ecuador attacks became less potent and a lack of urgency began to show. The final 10 minutes was an aerial ball barrage from any accessible white kit.

Senegal is representing the beginning of the resurgence in African football. ‘Upsets’ by non-European or non-South American nations in this World Cup are beginning to feel more common. They’re becoming the norm, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to continue building an aerobic base in order to fill the run.

In order to have a chance against England, Senegal will need to hold their own against in the midfield and train remain defensively solid for 90 minutes. If Senegal attack with the same nature as they did against Ecuador, it’ll have the potential to cause the first knockout upset of the tournament.

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