WORLD CUP 2018

Discipline key to victory as Senegal carry Africa's hopes

Senegal's M'Baye Niang (right) does a victory dance with Idrissa Gueye after scoring the winner in the 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday. The Africans are level on three points at the top of Group H with Japan, who they will face next on Sunday.
Senegal's M'Baye Niang (right) does a victory dance with Idrissa Gueye after scoring the winner in the 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday. The Africans are level on three points at the top of Group H with Japan, who they will face next on Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW • Senegal coach Aliou Cisse believes his side's discipline and faith in themselves as a new generation of African talent were key to their 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday, refusing to accept the result was all down to errors by their Group H opponents.

Neither side's goalkeeper was troubled for much of the 90 minutes. But an own goal by Thiago Cionek and a stray back pass allowed M'baye Niang to score for Senegal, playing in their first World Cup in 16 years, before the Poles secured a late consolation through Grzegorz Krychowiak.

"Senegal won due to discipline," said Cisse. "You saw a Senegal team very solid, very compact. We were able to put them under pressure.

"Every time they made a mistake we were able to find the action we needed and get back at them. We managed really well to get them out of their comfort zone in the first half."

His men revealed they were playing for more than their country as their continent suffered four defeats in as many games in Russia.

Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all lost their opening games.

"We saw the other African teams lose their first games and it gave us power to play for Africa," unused substitute Diafra Sakho said.

"Now, all of Africa is happy. It's time now to give us all in Africa one opportunity to win a World Cup."

Cisse captained the side which famously beat defending champions France in their first World Cup match in 2002, when they reached the quarter-finals.

No African country has made it further, although Cameroon (1990) and Ghana (2010) have also reached the last eight.

Cisse was less bullish than his striker Sakho, refusing to look beyond Sunday's tie against Japan, who shocked Colombia 2-1, in Ekaterinburg.

"We are not too euphoric because we know it will be a difficult match against Japan," he said.

"We need to question everything and prepare for the Japan match in the same way."

Poland must now pick themselves up for their match against Colombia on Sunday.

"We simply lacked quality in the first half and made unnecessary mistakes," Poland coach Adam Nawalka said. "We knew Senegal had quick attackers and would be very aggressive but we just didn't match them with appropriate quality."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2018, with the headline 'Discipline key to victory as Senegal carry Africa's hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe