Qatar World Cup

December 3, 2022

Rumble in the Desert: Teranga Lions battle Three Lions for quarter-finals ticket

“This is Africa’s World Cup. But, the world will only start taking notice after Senegal beat England, Morocco eliminate Spain and Ghana send Brazil home!” That is the bold and ambitious prediction of a Ghanaian football enthusiast, Gabby Otchere-Darko on his Twitter handle.

Intriguing as Darko sounds, the 2022 World Cup has already produced some of the most unbelievable results that have reshaped the global football architecture. The landmark achievements of countries like Japan that beat Germany and Spain, Tunisia beating world champions France or Morocco disgracing Belgium in the group stages have left deep imprints in the sands of time.

Although betting sites have installed England as the odds-on favourites to beat Senegal when the teams clash in the World Cup Round of 16 on Sunday, it will be foolhardy for the Three Lions to assume they have won already. 

The Three Lions finished top of their group after Marcus Rashford fired them to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Wales in midweek. Their reward is an intriguing showdown with the Lions of Teranga, who seized second place in Group A following their 2-1 win against Ecuador.

Senegal are the reigning African champions and they boast quality players such as Kalidou Koulibaly, Abdou Diallo and Ismaila Sarr.

However, their best player – talismanic forward Sadio Mané – did not make the World Cup squad after suffering an injury when playing for Bayern Munich.

As such, England are the clear favourites to advance to the quarter-finals at Senegal’s expense, but can they live up to their billing?

England’s players should be full of confidence after sweeping Wales aside on Tuesday night to finish top of Group B.

The fans booed Gareth Southgate’s men off the pitch following their 0-0 draw with the USA, but they were jubilant once more after watching Tuesday’s emphatic victory.

Pressure is on England, we’ve nothing to prove —El-Hadji Diof

El Hadji Diouf has accused England of believing they have already beaten Senegal and warned that could lead to another famous World Cup victory for his country.

Diouf, who was part of the Senegal team that defeated France at the 2002 tournament, is an assistant coach with the squad preparing to meet England in Sunday’s last-16 tie in Qatar. He was complimentary about Gareth Southgate’s side but feels they are guilty of complacency.

“I never say Senegal can’t win,” the former Liverpool forward said. “It reminds me of when we play against France: they win the game before they play it and I think England today do the same thing, which is good for us.

“We don’t have anything to show the world. If you see our squad, we have Édouard Mendy, we have Kalidou Koulibaly [both Chelsea], we have a lot of good players in England. Some play in the Championship but they are really Premier League players, like Ismaïla Sarr [of Watford]. It’s for them to show how good they are.

“It is a wonderful draw — who would not want to play this game? The players are excited. Talking to the boys it’s about big games, big players, they have to show how good they are. And definitely, this game is going to be very exciting because England have a good team, good players. I know we are not the favourites but we are going to do everything to beat them and the players can do it.”