African teams should be confident of going far in the World Cup, and even winning the tournament, according to Senegal boss Aliou Cisse.
Senegal beat hosts Qatar 3-1 on Friday to get their first points on the board in Group A.
The Africa Cup of Nations winners lost star player Sadio Mane to injury before the start of the World Cup, and were unable to put away their chances in an opening loss against the Netherlands.
But Cisse believes his team, as well as other African sides in action in the Middle East – Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia – should have faith they can challenge the top nations.
Cisse pointed to the shock wins for Japan and Saudi Arabia, over Germany and Argentina respectively, as evidence to support his claim.
“Just look at how the World Cup is unfolding, with a lot of surprises,” Cisse said.
“We’ve seen David bring down Goliath. Japan beat Germany, Saudi Arabia beat Argentina – anything is possible.
“All teams competing are worthy of being here. It’s not like 30 years ago where the big fish were completely neutralising the smaller teams.
“I think it will be a World Cup full of surprises. Yes, an African country can win the World Cup, and I hope that country is Senegal!”
269 – #Senegal have ended a run of 269 minutes without scoring at the #WorldCup, their longest scoring drought since 124 minutes from June 16, 2002 to June 19, 2018. Lions.#FIFAWorldCup #FIFAWorldCup2022 pic.twitter.com/VTlndy8LHf
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 25, 2022
With their win over Qatar, Senegal became the first African side to beat the host nation at a World Cup; all of the previous four instances of an African side facing the hosts had seen them lose by an aggregate 12-2 score.
Cisse had called on his forwards to improve after the defeat to the Dutch. Boulaye Dia, Famara Diedhiou and Bamba Dieng answered their coach’s call.
“Yes, we understood the message loud and clear,” said Dia, when asked by Stats Perform if he felt the Senegal forwards had done what was asked of them.
“We were not efficient against the Netherlands. We had lots of scoring chances, we should have put some away.
“The coach honed in on this: efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. We need to get in front of the goal and create those chances.
“We’re all very happy, all of the forwards able to score – happy days!”
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