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Africa's new kids on the block
Senegal are the surprise package from Africa for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the only one of the five African representatives who have never been to the finals before. The Lions came through arguably the toughest group in the continental qualifiers and are promising they have the potential to create further upsets when they play in the finals in Japan and Korea.
Senegal's qualification is a breath of fresh air for African soccer, with French coach Bruno Metsu building on a side whose foundations were laid by the veteran German trainer Peter Schnittger. Metsu says Senegal will bring a charm and charisma to the finals, plus intent to win. "We will be the Jamaica of this World Cup," said the French-born coach.
The West Africans have ambitions of exceeding the achievement of the Caribbean island in France in 1998 and Senegal believe they are strong candidates for at least the second round of the tournament.
The vast majority of the team are based in France, with other Senegalese internationals dotted around other European leagues in Austria, Greece, Portugal and Switzerland. They will rely mainly on a strong attack, led by 21-year-old El Hadji Diouf, who plays for Lens, and Khalilou Fadida, based at Auxerre and who almost elected to compete for Belgium before winning his first cap for Senegal in 2000. The wide play of Henri Camara is also key while Ferdinand Coly adds a measure of solidity in the defence.
Qualifying for the FIFA World Cup has injected a new fever into football in Senegal, whose previous best footballing achievement was a semi-final berth at the 1990 African Cup of Nations, when the shrewd Frenchman Claude Le Roy was their coach. There were ecstatic celebrations throughout the country after Senegal made sure of going to the finals with president Abdoulaye Wade even cutting short a state visit in Europe to fly home and celebrate with the players and people.
Significant past players:
Yerim Diagne, Louis Gomis, Boubacar Sarr, Souleymane Sane, Jules Bocande
Qualification 1965, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002 African Cup of Nations
Champion 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1991 Amilcar Cabral Cup
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