Tuesday 16 June 2020, 08:50

Senegal’s golden game

  • ​Senegal reached the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals 18 years ago today

  • National holidays were declared on the dates of their 2002 games

  • Bruno Metsu moulded his squad into a ‘band of brothers’

“Very beautiful. And completely mad.”

This was how Senegal’s coach, the late Bruno Metsu, described the match that took his team through to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ quarter-finals. The Lions of Teranga had just come from behind to eliminate Sweden with an extra-time Golden Goal, becoming the first African team since Cameroon in 1990 to reach the last eight.

Yet this stunning achievement merely continued a fairy tale that had begun in the Opening Match with an even more unexpected victory over France, reigning world and European champions. Not bad for a nation competing in the World Cup for the first time, and a team of which precious little had been expected.

El Hadji Diouf emerged as the team’s talisman during the group phase and, after seeing off the Swedes, he highlighted the team’s togetherness as its key strength. "This was always going to be a difficult match, a match of warriors and we had the trump cards," he said. "We showed once more we are a band of brothers, a bunch of friends who want to go all the way, and we will go all the way."

Senegal’s trump card on this occasion had, in fact, been the erstwhile low-profile Henri Camara. It was the speedy forward, pictured celebrating in the above image, who had cancelled out Henrik Larsson’s early opener before delivering the decisive, historic blow in the 103rd minute. "We did everything to win," said the goalscorer. "We are not here to be tourists.”

The team’s achievements had brought Senegal to a standstill, with the country’s president declaring national holidays on the dates of their matches. And the man who made it all possible was Metsu, whose collective approach forged the 'band of brothers' to which Diouf referred.

Reflecting on his success, Metsu said: “You don't have to be a great manager to send out a team in a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3 or whatever because anyone can do that. By contrast, channeling everyone's energy and strength in the same direction – that is something.”

The Senegal coach could also be gracious and empathetic in victory, saying after their Round-of-16 win: "I'm now thinking about the Swedes – losing like that must be very tough." Metsu would, in fact, find out just how tough in the very next round, when his side crashed out in exactly the same manner, Turkey’s Ilhan Mansiz scoring what turned out to be the last Golden Goal ever seen in a World Cup.