A good number of the Ecuadorian players broke down in tears at the end of injury time as the African Champions stole the second Group A last 16 spot.
It was one of the saddest nights in Ecuador soccer history as the Senegalese punched their tickets through at the expense of the former. Ecuador had felt that they could progress to the knockout stages despite their underdog status but they fell just short and the heart break was clear to see on the pitch.
Koulibaly Scores First International and World Cup Goal
Senegal had gone in front through Ismaila Sarr"s spot kick in the 44th minute after Hincapie had conceded a foul but Moises Caicedo"s 67th minute strike meant the Africans were on their way out of the World Cup. Kalidou Koulibaly came to the rescue for Senegal three minutes later as the Lions of Teranga ultimately claimed a decisive win at the Khalifa International stadium
Ecuador came into the game needing just a draw to progress to the knock-out stages of the competition having defeated the hosts Qatar 2-0 and managing a commendable point against the Dutch. For Aliou Cisse"s side, it was a must win match having lost to Netherlands, despite defeating Qatar.
After the goal, Koulibaly helped his team preserve their lead, making a good number of interceptions and blocks and ultimately thwarting their opponents chance of a comeback. He had a field day and it was no surprise to see him awarded the man of the match. A well deserved performance from the Chelsea defender, one of the most important goals in Senegalese history and also for Koulibaly as the winner marks his first ever international and also World Cup goal.
Enner Valencia Isolated
Ecuador"s key man in the 2022 World Cup, Enner Valencia, was isolated on the pitch, cutting a quite unimpressive figure. He had been the star man so far, scoring all three of their goals before the Senegal match. He made a huge impact in Ecuador"s qualification to the finals, scoring four goals en-route to Qatar 2022, only one behind Michael Estrada"s five.
In the World cup, closing down a key player of a team and shutting out supplies has been a very rewardable strategy. It worked for the Saudi Arabians against Lionel Messi"s Argentina and Enner Valencia just couldn"t find the magic Ecuador needed.
So Much Promise, So Little Reward
The Tricolors were very impressive in qualifying, notably defeating the Uruguayans 4-2 and thrashing the Colombians 6-1. It"s really sad to see such an energetic side being forced to pack their bags out of what was supposed to be a promising adventure.
The first half blandness very much ruined the match for Ecuador. The side sparked to life in the second but just couldn"t outwit the African Champions, who were not willing to take their feet off the gas pedal and put everything in for their second last-16 qualification.
The energy was with Ecuador at the start of this half, as they pressed so much for an equaliser. A goal was inevitable, with the South Americans charging their opponents seriously. But Senegal showed so much resilience.
It was so important that they didn"t let their opponents sit with their equalizer. As soon as the ball was out of Mendy"s net, it was almost in Galindez" net. The Senegalese were so quick to respond to Ecuador"s strike and that won the match for them.
It"s a bittersweet experience really. Seeing a youthful squad get knocked out of the group stages when they should have progressed is really smarting and whole Ecuadorian team would really be beating themselves up about this loss. It brings into remembrance when a youthful AFC Ajax side lost 3-2 to Tottenham in the semi-final of the 2019 UEFA Champions League.
For Senegal, despite losing on Matchday 1, they"ve shown so much grit and resilience to get back into the big picture. Remember, they had to do all this without the presence of their talisman, Sadio Mane. Senegal narrowly missed a chance to do the same thing in 2018 as they were eliminated by virtue of the fairplay tiebreaker, having gotten into the referee"s book more times than Japan.
They are most likely to clash with The Three Lions of England in the round of 16.
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