By Emmanuel Ebimoh
If there was any lost hope about the chances of African teams in the ongoing FIFA World Cup, that hope has been restored. If there was any doubt about the strong roar of the Lion in the jungle even in the midst of intimidating threats, then such doubt should be drowned in the sea. Just as an African proverb says, when the lions come out to dance in the jungle, every other animal gives way. Indeed, the Teranga Lions of Senegal have come out to dance, and Africa has finally arrived.
On Tuesday, in a World Cup Group H thriller at the Spartak Stadium, Moscow, Senegal filed out against top seeded team, Poland. After the other African teams in the tournament including Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia had lost their first matches, the continent rested its hopes on the shoulders of the Teranga Lions of Senegal to salvage some continental pride and give hope for second round qualification. The match started a little slow as both sides sought to weigh each other out gradually. Senegal had the first sight of goal when midfielder, Mbaye Niang sent a low shot in on Wojciech Szczesny in the seventh minute, but the Polish keeper handled it easily.
The first goal of the match however came in the 37th minute when Senegal’s Idrissa Gana Gueye drove a low shot from 22-yard out, the ball rebounded off Polish defender Thiago Cionek and caught the goalkeeper going the other way as it slid into an open net. It was the perfect opener the West African side needed to steal what would be another memorable victory for them after their win against France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup.
Senegal doubled their lead in the 60th minute of the game when M’Baye Niang pounced on a back pass from Poland’s Grzegorz Krychowiak, beating the goalkeeper and guiding the ball into the net. On the night, victory was surely going to be for Senegal and Africa. Poland however gave a chilling scare in the 86th minute when they pulled one goal back through Krychowiak. But it was a little too late. Senegal celebrated another opening victory in the World Cup after 16 years of absence.
In the other game played, Egypt welcomed their sensational striker, Mohamed Salah as they took on Russia in their second game of the competition. After losing their first match, the African side desperately needed at least a draw to give them any hope of getting a spot into the second round. But the presence of Salah didn’t help to change the outcome of the game in their favour. Three second half goals for Russia saw the host smiling away with another victory at the expense of the North African side. Egypt, however, got a penalty in the 73rd minute and their key man, Salah stepped up to maintain some sort of dignity in the scoreline. In the end, it was a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Egypt which ultimately stifles their chance of qualifying for the next round of the competition.
In today’s game, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will lock horns against another African side Morocco, Uruguay will try to secure their spot in the second round as they face Saudi Arabia, and Iran will do battle against Spain in another sizzling encounter. You can stay here with us as we bring to you all the post-match analysis of every game.
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Emmanuel Ebimoh is a Writer, Blogger, and Social Media Strategist. You can reach him on Facebook and LinkedIn at Emmanuel Ebimoh. Email: email@example.com