African Cup of Nations 2012: Senegal
Intro into team
The Lions of Teranga have qualified for the African Cup of Nations a staggering 11 times, but really made their mark on the international scene at the 2002 World Cup, where they defeated the holders France 1-0 in the first match of that tournament.
It was their debut game in the World Cup but you wouldn’t have thought so! They went from strength to strength after that game and eventually became only the second African team to reach the quarter finals(Ghana have since became the third team), where they exited the competition.
Their best result in the ACN was in 2002, in a prequel to their performances in the World Cup, they lost in the final on penalties to Cameroon.
That year was the making of Senegalese football. The star players secured moves to big teams in England, France and further afield and the game in Senegal has never looked back.
How Did They Qualify?
Senegal qualified with ease from Group E as group winners, only dropping two points with a draw in Cameroon which stopped a 100% record of six wins in six games.
They scored sixteen goals in the six games, including a 7-0 thrashing of Mauritius, and only conceded two goals in the campaign, both in their first game against Congo DR. There are plenty of goalscorers in the team, with their top goalscorer in qualification Mamadou Niang only scoring five goals.
Head coach Amara Traore was one of the heroes from the World Cup squad of 2002, and took over the Senegal job in December 2009. He spent his entire playing career in the French leagues but spent most of his career at FC Gueugnon. Over two spells at the club, he played in 250 games, scoring 97 goals.
He began his managerial career in 2007 at Senegalese club ASC Linguère, and after taking them to the Senegal Premier League title in 2009, he was appointed head coach of Senegal.
Demba Ba is a name familar to most of us now with his exploits in the Premier League last season with West Ham and this season with Newcastle, where his goals have dragged them into the top half of the table. He made his debut for his country in 2007 against Tanzania, scoring in the game.
To date, he has played in 10 games for Senegal, scoring three goals, similar to his club record of a goal every three games. He scored only once in the qualifiers, but it may have been the most important goal of his career, scoring in injury time to win the home game against Cameroon.
With the form he has been in this season, he is certainly one to look out for.
Omar Daf is the most experienced player in the squad, with 51 caps, and at the age of 34 his experience in defence will be invaluable if Senegal are to achieve victory in the tournament. While primarily a right back, he can also fill in at left back and in right midfield if required to do so.
That versatility can only be a benefit to the team as the championship trundles on.
Moussa Sow is probably the best player in the Senegal squad, and his attacking instincts will be key to any progression Senegal make in the ACN.
Like a lot of the squad, he is French born, and played for the French under-21s twice in 2009, however the 25 year old changed his allegiance to Senegal soon after those games and made his debut in September 2009 against Angola.
He has scored five goals in 13 games for Senegal, and his form last season in Ligue Un (he was top scorer with 25 goals) led to him being linked to a move to Arsenal. If he has a good ACN as expected, the rumour mill will be red-hot again.
How far can they go?
I would expect them to win Group A with ease. Libya, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia are their opponents, and frankly I expect three wins for Senegal. If they qualify on top, I think they’ll draw Angola in the quarter finals.
They should reach the semi finals, but they’re certainly an outside shot to win the tournament. Ladbrokes have them at 8/1 as third favourites to win, and I think that’s worth a quid or two.