Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 58-Senegal Shock Their Former Colonial Masters (2002)

West African national Senegal is more known for its world music (Baaba Maal etc), the capital being the former end of the Paris-Dakar rally, and its Socialist rule that lasted for decades. Football? Well, no. All the players before the 2002 World Cup were playing in France, Senegal or Morocco so most of your casual fans of the world game weren’t clued up on the likes of El Hadji Diouf, Ferdinand Coly, Henri Camara and Aliou Cisse (their 26 year old captain).

Ignorant to a majority of the football loving public around the world but this team were no easy beats coming in to the World Cup. Led by the man with the Michael Bolton mullet himself Bruno Metsu they had made the final of the African Cup of Nations that year where they had finished runner up to Cameroon following a penalty shootout. As good as Senegal were to get though to the big one they would be up against a monster in their first ever game in a World Cup. At the Seoul World Cup Stadium (such an original name) they would take on their former colonial masters and reigning champions France.

The French were no pushovers being the only country to ever hold the titles for World and European champions concurrently and featuring a team that was the epitome of god like. Apart from Zinedine Zidane who was fresh from scoring a wondergoal in the Champions League final in Glasgow they featured Anelka, Trezuguet, Lizarazu, Makelele, Micoud and a heap of other players that were either from the class of ’98 or joined the team under Roger Lemerre to make Les Blues even more powerful. What France didn’t count on though was the black hole of competitive football that came with being champions and automatic qualifiers. They had toured Australia (where Kevin Muscat had almost broken Dugarry in half) and played in the Confederations Cup where they had been done by a third rate Australian line up but still won the tournament.

Then Zidane was injured in a friendly before the tournament and would miss the first match. Zidane out? A fair chunk of the side playing up to 60 games in the past season and generally dead on their feet? No problems the French thought, hell even TABCorp were paying 5/1 for a 1-0 win to Senegal. The match kicked off following the usual cringe worthy opening ceremony (complete with booing of Sepp Blatter) and stirring French national anthem. From the get go Senegal were to the equal to France in pressure and skill and had them on the back foot. The French held back and tried to hang on to possession for long periods of time but any foray forward was cut out by the inspirational Cisse who played ahead of his back four while Coly (complete with a haircut that made him look like Predator from said movie Predator) kept Wiltord in his back pocket.

On the break Senegal were dangerous with Diouf switching wings and generally causing grief against an ageing French defence but it was France with the first chance on 20 minutes when Trezuguet was put through (the keeper Sylva saving at his feet) and then three minutes later hit the upright when fed the ball by Henry. Senegal took this bit of luck and rode it all the way to the bank. Djorkaeff was stripped of the ball by Boupa Diop, the pass finding Diouf who again dashed down the left wing and rode a tackle from Lebouf. Diouf then squared the ball in to the area where Boupa Diop took advantage of a mix up between Manu Petit and Fabian Barthez to slot the ball home and send the crowd in to raptures.

Boupa Diop ran to the corner flag and took his shirt off before he and his teammates danced around the shirt…weird and wonderful stuff and a sign that the side was definitely ‘playing for the shirt’.

France now realized they had to actually do something but still played a disjointed style that was neither cohesive nor effective. Senegal were well-organized and bossed the midfield even when Henry snatched on any half chance he could find (he hit the bar in the second half). Fadiga had the best chance of the second half with his vicious shot that nailed in to the crossbar and Senegal held out against a lackluster French side to win and cause of the great upsets in the history of the World Cup.

The match had an eerily similar look to the 1990 opener where a much more brutal but no less brilliant Cameroon side beat then champions Argentina. Celebrations were not only on the pitch by the Senegalese players but also back in West Africa where people took to the streets to celebrate with the Senegalese President riding around in an open-top jeep holding up a football in his hand and waving. Senegal would go on to keep shocking teams that didn’t show and respect and made the quarter finals of the tournament where they were eventually worn down by the equally brilliant and surprising Turkish side.

Like so many times before when an African nation burst on to the scene their players were all of a sudden on their way to big teams including the 21 year old Diouf who went on to play with Liverpool before becoming a bad guy for a myriad of reasons and not doing too well at such a famous club. France had an awful tournament with only Hawthorn in 2009 possibly being a sporting team that has done worse at defending a title. The French never scored a goal, Henry was sent off in their 0-0 draw with Uruguay and then went down meekly to Denmark to go out.

A sign of what was to come in such an upside down tournament with a heap of shock upsets, the win by Senegal over their old masters was most definitely a memorable moment.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. Thanks Dennis, I’m really enjoying these comprehensive and succinct appraisals of World Cup moments. It’s an enjoyable way to start prepping for 2014.


Leave a Comment