Friday 17 May 2019, 20:34

Dabo: Senegal have to stand tall

  • Senegal qualified for Poland 2019 as African runners-up

  • Lions of Teranga take on hosts, Colombia and Tahiti in the group stage

  • Senegal reached the semis in 2015 and the last 16 in 2017

Though Senegal have been a major force on the African U-20 scene for the last six years now, they have had their fair share of disappointment in that time. In reaching three consecutive African finals they have finished runners-up on each occasion and have had to content themselves with a FIFA U-20 World Cup place.

“It’s been anything but easy for Senegal to reach three African finals in a row,” Lions of Teranga coach Youssouph Dabo told “I think it’s an achievement in itself to get that far in the competition and it means we’re getting close to first place every time. One day, it will happen.”

This year’s CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations was an important test for the Senegal team, who earned their qualification for the World Cup in a final phase that pitched them against the best sides on the continent.

“We owe our place in the World Cup to our fine performance in the finals in Niger and our run to the final,” said Dabo. “It was a great competition for us and we felt that the team has come on a lot. We’ve earned everyone’s respect and that’s important. It’s just a shame we missed out on what would have been an historic achievement.”

The Senegalese have already begun their final preparations for the World Cup, which kicks off on 23 May and runs to 15 June, having arrived in Poland on Monday.

“Our preparations have gone well and we’ve got the whole group together now, which is great,” added the Senegalese coach, who has announced a squad that includes Manchester City starlet Alpha Dionkou. “We need to keep on working hard and stay focused on what we know we can do.”

On their guard

The Lions of Teranga have been drawn against the host nation, Colombia and Tahiti in the group phase.

“We’re up against Tahiti first,” commented Dabo. “We don’t know anything about them and there’s always a surprise or two against teams like them. As for Colombia, they’re tournament regulars and the Poles are playing at home, so they’ll be full of confidence. It’s a tough group but you expect that because we’re talking about a World Cup and the matches will be very keenly contested. We’ll have our chances and it’s up to us to take them.”

Senegal reached the semi-finals at New Zealand 2015 and eventually finished fourth after losing to fellow African side Mali in the match for third place. And in Korea Republic two years later, the Lions of Teranga lost to Mexico in the Round of 16.

Dabo has a very clear idea of what he wants his side to do this time around: “We’re going to go out there and not think about what happened at the last two competitions, because that doesn’t serve any purpose. We need to get out of our group and then see what happens. Any of the teams in Poland can win the tournament, and Senegal are one of them.”