Senegal coach, Aliou Cisse, says his team must keep their feet on the ground ahead of the next match against Japan. Photo: EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA
Senegal coach, Aliou Cisse, says his team must keep their feet on the ground ahead of the next match against Japan. Photo: EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA

Senegal 'proud to represent Africa', but staying humble after Poland win

By Barry Whelan Time of article published Jun 20, 2018

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MOSCOW - Senegal are "not jumping up and down" after starting their World Cup campaign with a victory over Poland to revive memories of their run into the quarter-finals on their tournament debut in 2002.

Coach Aliou Cisse moved quickly to feet-on-the-ground mode in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow after seeing the Lions of Teranga outmuscle the fancied Poles with a 2-1 victory which has shaken up Group H. "This victory means we are able to enter the competition in the best possible way, but we are not too euphoric because we know there will be a difficult match next against Japan," he said. 

Japan had earlier beaten 10-man Colombia 2-1 in Saransk, and are next up for Senegal in Yekaterinburg on Sunday. Senegal's victory, courtesy of a first-half own goal by Thiago Cionek and a second on the hour by man-of-the-match Mbaye Niang inevitably drew comparisons with Senegal's stunning opening victory over then world champions France in Seoul in 2002.

But 42-year-old Cisse, who who captained the 2002 World Cup team and played much of his time in France, said Tuesday's win at Senegal's World Cup return could not really be compared to the impact of the victory of 16 years ago. "It doesn't taste the same at all," he said. 

"France and Senegal have a history. France was the country that colonised Senegal. We were the children of immigrants, the children of that France, the France that gave a lot to us and gave a lot to our parents, and the France that also trained us at the training academies in France. Things are very different here but it is just as important as the victory we got against France."

Senegal's win comes after defeats for Egypt, who have now lost twice, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia and means they could well be carrying the flag for Africa. "We are Senegal and we represent our country but I can guarantee the whole of the African continent is supporting our national Senegalese team," Cisse said. "I am getting phone calls from everywhere. People do believe in our team, and they are proud and we are also proud to represent Africa."

But it is the second match that often counts the most, he warned, and Senegal are staying humble. "We are not jumping up and down. Humility is very important for this team," he said.

Senegal were well prepared to deal with Poland's attacking threat and managed to limit their record goalscorer Robert Lewandowski to a single shot on target - and that from a direct free-kick. "We had the system we needed," Cisse said. "We managed to control the game tactically but also emotionally."

"Let's not underestimate our team. We know they (Poland) could play with two systems. In the second half they ended up in 3-4-3 and they started with 4-2-3-1. We knew how to implement the right system to face them. We played well and it was a very tight game. We did have some luck when we opened the scoring, but when it came to strength and confidence everything changed."


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