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Will Senegal carry Africa’s burden in Qatar?

Will Senegal carry Africa’s burden in Qatar?

The draws for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup were made on Friday, and again as usual, attention shifts to African representatives who will participate at the global football fiesta taking place in the Middle East for the first time.

For years, West African teams have shouldered the responsibility of ensuring that the continent is not just represented, but well represented. Egypt was the first country in Africa to appear at the mundial in 1934, but never went beyond the first round.

At a time, Cameroon, who would be making their eighth appearance at this year’s competition, looked like going all the way in Italian 1990, after the famous victory over Diego Armando Maradona’s Argentina, starring Africa’s football greats such as Roger Milla and Francois Omam-Biyik.

Cameroon’s incredible run in only their second appearance at the tournament was halted by England in the Round of 16.

In USA 1994, the Super Eagles, who missed out of a place in Qatar, were the cynosure of the world in their first appearance. They were fresh from winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) ranked 1st in Africa and 5th in the world two months before the tournament, and placed in Group D alongside Argentina, Greece and Bulgaria. The team won the group and left the albiceleste to finish third in the group.

The Clemens Westerhof men, however, agonisingly lost 2-1 to Italy in extra time, ending their journey in the Round of 16.

Senegal made their World Cup debut in 2002 and their first game was against defending champions, France. The team captained by current Terranga Lions’ coach, Aliou Cisse, shocked the tournament favourites and went on to reach the quarterfinals.

Senegal players pose for a group photo prior to the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final soccer match between Senegal and Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium, in Cairo, Egypt, on 19 July 2019. (Photo by Islam Safwat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Of all the 13 African countries that have represented the continent, only Ghana came to close to reaching the semi-finals recently at the 2010 World Cup, as they were denied the record by Uruguay in heart-breaking circumstances.

Senegal has been the most consistent team in African football over the past few years. They have maintained their status as the best in the continent for years now, and have not gone below 25th in the world within that period.

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The Cisse-tutored side qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, finished second at the 2019 AFCON and are fresh from winning the 2021 tournament, their first ever. The team booked a place in Qatar at the expense of Egypt, whom they also beat in the final of the African football showpiece about two months ago.

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The African champions have shown depth and quality with their array of stars for years now. They have Africa’s best footballers playing in some of Europe top leagues. The coach has been at the helm for more than six years now and established his philosophy with his team.

Though Cameroon, Ghana, Tunisia and Morocco also qualified for the competition slated to hold between November 21 and December 18, 2022, the expectation of Africa achieving anything will definitely  rests on Senegal.

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