Senegal players celebrate World Cup ticket in South Africa. FIFA Photo
Senegal on Friday sealed a return to the FIFA World Cup for the first time since their 2002 debut thanks to a 2-0 win over South Africa in World Cup qualifying African Group D.
The Senegalese bagged Africa’s third ticket to the tournament in Russia next June. There are two tickets left, with Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Congo top contenders.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Diafra Sakho scored the opener for Senegal in Polokwane, before a somewhat fortuitous Thamsanqa Mkhize own goal sealed the three points for the Teranga Lions.
The visitors are now five points ahead of nearest Group D challengers Burkina Faso with one game remaining.
Senegal stunned the world by beating World Cup holders France in their first ever game at the global finals in 2002.
If they are to produce performances to match that at Russia 2018, it is likely that Liverpool’s Sadio Mane will be the catalyst.
Unsurprisingly, Mane was integral to the victory that booked their World Cup return, with a wonderfully incisive through ball teeing up Sakho for the opener.
2010 World Cup hosts South Africa played their part – and even dominated possession for spells – in a lively match, with Lebogang Manyama hitting the crossbar.
But the second goal, just before half-time, knocked the wind out of their sails.
Head coach Aliou Cisse was the Senegalese captain during their 2002 debut, which saw them follow up that remarkable opening win against France to reach the quarter-finals.
The former midfielder will be hoping he can inspire them to achieve similarly superlative heights next year in Russia.