sport news Qatar World Cup 2022: Can Senegal shock the world (again)?

sport news Qatar World Cup 2022: Can Senegal shock the world (again)?
sport news Qatar World Cup 2022: Can Senegal shock the world (again)?

It is perhaps the most famously ambitious prediction about the future of African football which never saw the light of day - nor came anywhere close. It still hasn't.

The year was 1974 when Pele, a three-time winner with Brazil, boldly forecasted an African winner of the World Cup by the year 2000. 

In fact, 21 years into the 21st century, the furthest any African nation has been is the quarter-finals. One of the three teams to do so was a Senegal side which stunned the world back in 2002 in South Korea and Japan

A Senegal side spearheaded by Sadio Mane lost in the final of the 2019 African Cup of Nations

This side have the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly (left) and Cheikhou Kouyate (right) leading them

This side have the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly (left) and Cheikhou Kouyate (right) leading them

Now, the country's next generation of stars have their eyes on a deep run in Qatar next year. 

They face Namibia twice within the next week in the second round of African qualifying, with the continent's representatives in the 2022 World Cup boiling down towards five two-legged ties early next year in the third round. 

Pele once boldly forecasted an African winner of the World Cup by the year 2000

Pele once boldly forecasted an African winner of the World Cup by the year 2000

Senegal are, undoubtedly, amongst the favourites to qualify. Why? The west African nation has landed their next generation of stars, in the midst of impressive careers in European football, and should be not be underestimated should they make it to Qatar. 

Three years ago in Russia, led by Cheikhou Kouyate, the Senegalese were decidedly unfortunate not to qualify for the knockout stages. They finished joint-second in their group with Japan, but missed out by virtue of a poorer fair play record. 

But Senegal, in 2002, are one of only three African nations to have reached the quarter-finals

But Senegal, in 2002, are one of only three African nations to have reached the quarter-finals

In 2019, they reached the final of the African Cup of Nations where they disappointingly lost to Algeria in the final. They will hope to go one better in the New Year when the continent's stars face off in Cameroon. 

But the ultimate goal will be success on the grandest stage of them all. And what constitutes success? For this current crop, the knockout stages. But they will have their eye on another last-eight spot too. 

Their squad is littered with stars, spearheaded by Liverpool forward Sadio Mane. A loyal contributor to his country, Mane has scored 25 goals in 77 caps since making his debut in 2012 and will be in the team playing Namibia despite the inconvenience that will cause with quarantining on his return to the UK. 

Edouard Mendy, Chelsea's No 1, will have to undergo a similar fortnight. The Champions League winner gives his country something a lot of African countries don't have: a first-class goalkeeper playing at the highest level. 

Edouard Mendy, Chelsea's No 1, is a first class goalkeeper who is aa big asset to his country

Edouard Mendy, Chelsea's No 1, is a first class goalkeeper who is aa big asset to his country

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