England to face Senegal and their army of superfans at World Cup
There was dancing in the streets as a nation’s football heroes reached the World Cup knock-out stages – with the Sene-goal of beating England.
Jubilant celebrations broke out in Senegal’s capital Dakar, soundtracked by drumming, vuvuzelas and car horns, as the team nicknamed the Lions of Teranga beat Ecuador 2-1 to book their place in Sunday’s 7pm second-round clash against our own Lions.
The west African nation’s president Macky Sall posted on Twitter: ‘IMMENSE! What a match! What players! Now go and touch the stars.’
The game was especially signifcant for Senegal as it came precisely two years since the death of national legend Papa Bouba Diop in Paris, at just 42.
Present-day captain and Chelsea centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly – who scored the winner against Ecuador – was wearing a special armband commemorating the former Portsmouth midfielder, with his international shirt number 19 on display.
After success in 2002, this is only the second time Senegal have got beyond the World Cup’s first round.
But England boss Gareth Southgate knows the reigning African Cup of Nations winners will be no pushover, having overcome hosts Qatar and then Ecuador and only losing to the Netherlands thanks to two late goals.
This is despite Senegal losing their star forward Sadio Mané – formerly of Liverpool, now at Bayern Munich – to injury on the eve of the contest. ‘Teranga’ in their nickname comes from the Senegalese language Wolof and means a blend of hospitality, warmth and friendliness said to characterise the nation.
The upcoming match in Al Khor’s Al Bayt Stadium will be the first time England have faced Senegal – their 92nd separate opponent – in international football.
But Senegal can be assured of British support with Wales and Scotland fans vowing to back them against Harry Kane’s crew.
One internet user posted an image from UK sitcom The Office, with actors Ricky Gervais and Mackenzie Crook wearing the Welsh team bucket hat, accompanied by the caption: ‘Go and get the Senegal flag.’
Another shared a video of Fifa president Gianni Infantino saying ‘Today, I feel African’ – joking that Scottish and Welsh fans feel the same.
Yesterday it was revealed that a peak audience of 18.7million people – 16.6million on average – tuned in to see England beat Wales 3-0 on Monday.
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