Senegal keep World Cup hopes alive to leave sorry Qatar facing an early exit | World Cup 2022

Another embarrassing display from Qatar ended in defeat and almost certain elimination from the World Cup. But at least the host nation’s fans inside the half-full Al Thumama stadium had some solace: they got to see their team’s result.

Senegal themselves were far from impressive, but they still had plenty for their hapless opponents, who make a strong case for winning the title of worst nation ever; Unless Ecuador defeats the Netherlands later on Friday, they will be out. After two defeats, Qatar must now hope to salvage some pride in their final group match against the Netherlands, as the unlikely combination of an emphatic win and other results en route will be enough to advance to the knockout stages.

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Following their defeat against the Netherlands, Senegal coach Aliou Cisse changed his line-up to a 4-4-2 and a more aggressive approach eventually paid off as the two strikers – Boulaye Dia and Famara Didiou – managed to score. Qatar put the match back in the balance with 12 minutes remaining with a simple goal well-kicked by Mohamed Muntari, but by that point the exodus of Qatari fans had already occurred and Bamba Deng shut things down five minutes before normal time.

The largely torrid game started with a sterile first half, with Idrissa Gaye’s long-range goal coming as close as it could get in the first 40 minutes. But Qatar were so weak on the ball, unable to keep the ball or make passes, that a mistake always seemed likely to cost them.

A duly comical foul arrived in the 41st minute. A rare Senegalese volley attempt, Kriban Diatta’s pass missed its intended targets, landing instead at the feet of centre-half Boualem Khoukhi. As the defender was looking to clear, he instead caught the ball with his foot, lost his balance, fell on his ass, and handed possession to Dia, who happily accepted the gift and fired low past Mishal Barshim.

Within three minutes of restarting, Qatar fell two minutes. This time the goal was all Senegal’s business, Ismail Jacobs driving a corner to the near post as Dia’s partner Diedhiou jumped forcefully over his marker to head home, before heading to the touchline to celebrate with the Senegal substitutes. .

Mohamed Muntari beats Senegal's defense to score Qatar's first World Cup goal
Mohamed Muntari beats Senegal’s defense to score Qatar’s first World Cup goal. Photo: Dean Mhtaropoulos/Getty Images

If this was a jubilant moment for the Africans, and their World Cup campaign still alive, it was not evident in an improved performance. Cisse’s men were still lumpy in possession, slow to force chances or shoot the ball away.

Given the quality of the opposition, it didn’t seem to matter, but then the hosts started to rally. Edouard Mendy had to save twice: the first was a long-range shot from Moez Ali rounding the right post. The second, four minutes later, he reacted faster when he stopped a close-range effort from Ismail Mohamed, a header that ended up coming off the full-back’s knee.

A third goal at this point would have helped Senegal cause a bid to qualify from Group A, putting them ahead of Ecuador on goal difference at least momentarily. But instead, the African champions sat on the field and Cissé gave some of his leading stars a rest. At that time, Qatar hit, substitute Muntari, standing, jumped home with a power cross from Mohammed.

The Qatari crowd’s cheering was strong but it wasn’t enough to drown out the throng of Senegalese drummers who set the mood on the crowd. In fact, the goal is only to wake up Senegal. And suddenly, for the first time, the African Cup of Nations champions came out on top and played the ball on the ground. After a brilliant run into the box from Sheffield United’s Eliman Ndiaye, Dieng was on hand to bring home the third.

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