The Senegal senior football team has finally joined Nigeria as one of the African teams that have booked their place in next year’s World Cup finals, which holds in Russia in the summer. Their win also meant that South Africa, which has gradually become a paper weight in African football would not be part of the massive football party in Russia. Rampaging Senegal beat South Africa 2-0 in Polokwane.
The damage was done by no other than West Ham forward, Diafra Sakho, whose early goal gave Senegal a half-time lead at the Peter Mokaba Stadium before an own goal from Thamsanqa Mkhize subsequently ended South Africa’s hope of going to Russia.
South Africa had originally won the match 2-1 on November 12 last year, but it was agreed that the game would be replayed after referee Joseph Lamptey’s lifetime ban was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Lamptey has been expelled by FIFA over match-fixing allegations. Senegal knew victory would be enough to send them to Russia, while South Africa needed to win their final two qualifying matches, both against the Lions of Teranga.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane’s fine pass set up Sakho for the opening goal in the 12th minute and the latter kept his composure to slide the ball home and silence a partisan crowd. Bafana Bafana dominated first-half possession and went close to equalising when Lebogang Manyama’s shot hit the crossbar.
But Stuart Baxter’s side went further behind before the break. Mane’s effort was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, only for Mkhize to haplessly head the rebound over his own goal-line. The home side continued to press early in the second half and Manyama was denied again, this time by Senegal goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye’s superb save.
Chances then dried up for Bafana Bafana as Senegal’s defence dealt with further attacks and they comfortably held on to their two-goal lead to reach the World Cup finals for a second time – 16 years after their only previous appearance. The two sides clash again in Dakar on Tuesday, but the result is academic as Senegal become the third African side after Egypt and Nigeria to reach next summer’s finals.