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Koulibaly goal puts Senegal into World Cup round of 16 – The Denver Post

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By Gérald IMRAY

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Kalidou Koulibaly has literally taken inspiration from his captain’s armband, inscribing the number 19 on it in memory of one of Senegal’s most beloved players.

Then Koulibaly became one himself.

The Senegal captain scored the winning goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Ecuador, putting his side through to the World Cup round of 16 despite the absence of injured Sadio Mane, the country’s best player. team and one of the best strikers in the world.

The No.19 was due to honor Papa Bouba Diop, the Senegalese midfielder who scored the winning goal against defending champions France in the 2002 World Cup opener. It was one of the Senegal’s greatest footballing moments and a victory that launched this team’s run to the quarter-finals – still Senegal’s best performance.

“We wanted to make him proud. We wanted to pay tribute to him,” Koulibaly said of Diop, who died at the age of 42 on Tuesday exactly two years ago. “He was the one who made me dream when I was little. It was something that we were not going to let slip.

“Thank God I was there to send that ball into the net.”

Only a win against Ecuador would have taken Senegal through to the next round of Group A, and Koulibaly scored the goal that made it possible at the Khalifa International Stadium.

A free kick from Idrissa Gueye bounces off an opponent and comes in his direction. Koulibaly kicked in his right foot and knocked it past Ecuadorian goalkeeper Hernan Galindez in the 70th minute. Koulibaly then sprinted to the corner flag and slid to his knees in celebration.

The African champions took the lead after a first-half penalty from Ismaila Sarr. But Moises Caicedo leveled the score when it went unmarked after a 67th-minute corner.

At 1-1, Ecuador would advance and Senegal were out.

That result would have been as agonizing as Senegal’s early exit four years ago, when the team finished the group stage with a loss to Colombia and even on points with Japan. Senegal were eliminated on the fair play rule as they received two more yellow cards than the Japanese.

This year, Senegalese coach Aliou Cissé was forced to reinvent his attacking line following the injury of Mane, who sent a message to the team before the game. Koulibaly said the Bayern Munich striker had also been an inspiration to the team despite not being in Qatar.

“Regarding his injury (to Mane), probably two-thirds of the world doubted we could qualify,” Koulibaly said.

Senegal lost their opening game to the Netherlands 2-0 but gave themselves a chance with a 3-1 win over hosts Qatar. Still, the team needed a win over Ecuador.

“We were against a brick wall,” Cissé said.

Sarr, 24, won the penalty when he was knocked down by a clumsy tackle from Ecuador defender Piero Hincapie just before half-time. He slotted his penalty into the bottom right corner in the 44th minute and almost the entire Senegal bench and coaching staff ran towards him.

Sarr also walked over to the corner flag in celebration while putting his hands over his eyes.

He can watch now, as Senegal have at least one more game to play.

THE QUEST FOR SENEGAL

Senegal now have a chance to match, or even better, the country’s scintillating run to the quarter-finals in 2002, when Cissé was captain and the team matched Africa’s best performance in a World Cup. No African team reached the semi-finals.

EMOTION ECUADOR

It was the end of a solid campaign for Ecuador and striker Enner Valencia, who had scored his side’s first three goals at this year’s World Cup and played against Senegal despite a bad sprain in the knee. Valencia found themselves consoling Galindez, who was tearing up towards the end of the game and couldn’t hold back after the final whistle as he cried on Valencia’s shoulder.

AND AFTER

Ecuador return home after missing the chance to progress through the group stage for only the second time in the country’s history. Senegal finished second in Group A and advanced to the round of 16 with the Netherlands, who beat Qatar 2-0.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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