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Senegal: The lions that turned out to be pussycats

As the final whistle blew in Bata on Sunday night, the curtain fell down on Senegal’s 2012 African Cup of Nations campaign. African minnows Libya had just sealed a 2-1 win, and in doing so had ensured that the Lions of Teranga finished rock bottom of group A, without a win, without a point, and without any pride.

Much was expected of Senegal before the tournament. On paper, coach Amara Traore had one of the strongest squads of any of the competing nations. In attack, they had some of Europe’s brightest, most sought-after attacking talents. Senegal were tipped by many to, at the very least, challenge African giants Ghana and the Ivory Coast in winning the tournament.

But Sunday’s defeat completed a miserable couple of weeks for the men from West Africa. Many expected to see the Lions of Teranga fighting for their country. Instead, the lions turned out to have as much fight in them as a pussycat.

When Traore announced his squad for the tournament, big things were expected from his team. Amongst the players were Demba Ba, a revolation for Newcastle this season, Papiss Demba Cisse, Ba’s new teammate on Tyneside and a prolific scorer in Germany, and Moussa Sow, a regular scorer in France’s Ligue 1.

These players failed to shine though. Senegal scored just three goals in their three games, with Sow being the only one of their high profile strikers to find the net. Due to the success of these players in their respective leagues over the past year, a lot of pressure was placed upon their shoulders, in particular Ba. In the end, it was too much.

Having a strong front line is one thing, but Senegal didn’t have such strength in depth when it came to other areas of the pitch. The midfield lacked creativity, and defensively they were poor, despite having experienced campaigners such as former Charlton man Souleymane Diawara. The goals conceded on the way to their three defeats highlighted a lack of organisation and cohesion amongst the team, deficiencies that were gratefully taken advantage of by the opposition.

Now that their time at the tournament is over, the recriminations have began. Former player El Hadji Diouf, star of the 2002 Senegal side that narrowly lost out at the African Nations 10 years ago, and an individual who has never been afraid to speak his mind, blames coach and former teammate Amara Traore. Diouf told Orange Sports ‘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’.

Diouf, despite being the pugnacious individual that he is, may have a point. Not about Traore, but about Senegal’s lack of soul. Only the players can provide that.









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