In 2002, Senegal achieved its best finishing place at an African Cup of Nations, when they lost in the final to Cameroon. Six months later, it went onto reach the quarter finals of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, capturing the attention of football fans with their fantastic team spirit and outlandish goal celebrations. This was Senegal’s first ‘golden generation’. Without winning a trophy, they put the country onto the proverbial ‘football map’. With the start of the 28th ACON a matter of days away, can Senegal’s ‘second golden generation’ do what the first couldn’t, and win Africa’s premier international tournament for the first time?
Despite boasting a plethora of talent in their squad in 2002, Senegal fell agonizingly short of defeating a Samuel Eto’o inspired Cameroon, losing 3-2 on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes in Mali. When the time came for the team to perform on the biggest stage of all, the FIFA World Cup, the inhabitants of the West African country looked on with pride as the team again narrowly lost out, this time to Turkey at the quarter final stage.
Senegal’s performance proved to be something of an anti-climax, as World Cup qualification has since eluded them and as yet are still to win an ACON title. This year however, could be when the wait ends, as Senegal currently boast one of the strongest looking squads at the tournament, and with the absence of some of Africa’s heavyweights, the Lions of Teranga look a good bet to challenge the favorites Ivory Coast and Ghana for glory.
The big difference between the stars of the current Senegalese squad and the one of 2002, is the team that will play in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have players that have performed consistently well over the past few seasons and have established themselves. The team that played ten years ago, which included names such as El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diou, were more of an unknown quantity, evident by the failure of several players after making high-profile moves after the 2002 World Cup.
The contemporary Senegal includes recognized names plying their trade across Europe, with a number of players currently playing in the English Premier League. In fact, there is only two domestically based players in the squad, those being two of the three goalkeepers, Khadim Ndiaye and Pape Latyr Ndiaye. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the squad is based in France, with the likes of Souleymane Diawara and Lamine Sané playing for Marseille and Bordeaux respectively. Of the Premier League contingent, Armand Traoré, formerly of Arsenal and now of QPR, and Wigan’s Mouhamed Diamé will be hoping to perform.
Senegal’s main strength however lies in attack, where they boast arguably the most impressive lineup of forwards of any squad. Coach Amara Traore selected seven strikers, including Demba Ba, currently second in the Premier League’s scoring charts, Papiss Demba Cissé, scorer of 22 goals in last season’s Bundesliga, and Moussa Sow, a prolific scorer in Ligue 1, a player who’s goals helped deliver the French championship to Lille last season. Also in the squad is Dame N’Doye, a star of the Danish league with FC Copenhagen.
With a squad that boasts such attacking talent, goals shouldn’t be an issue for Senegal. Drawn with Equatorial Guinea, Zambia and Libya, they will be expected to finish top of group A. If Senegal’s ‘second golden generation’ can achieve more than the first, they will be remembered for more than just the outlandish goal celebrations. Africa awaits.
COACH: Amara Traore
Goalkeepers: Khadim Ndiaye (ASC Linguere), Bouna Coundoul (New York Red Bulls), Pape Latyr Ndiaye (Ouakam)
Defenders: Kader Mangane (Rennes), Souleymane Diawara (Marseille), Lamine Sané (Bordeaux), Jacques Faty (Sivasspor), Moustapha Bayal Sall (St Etienne), Pape Malickou Diakhaté (Granada), Cheikh Mbengue (Toulouse), Armand Traoré (QPR), Omar Daf (Brest)
Midfielders: Rémi Gomis (Valenciennes) , Mouhamed Diamé ( Wigan), Guirane N’Daw (Birmingham City), Ndiaye Dème Ndiaye (Arles-Avignon)
Forward: Issiar Dia ( Fenerbahce), Moussa Sow (Lille), Papiss Demba Cissé (Freiburg), Souleymane Camara (Montpelier), Mamadou Niang (Al Sadd), Demba Ba (Newcastle United), Dame N’Doye (FC Copenhagen).