Senegal were comfortable victors against Qatar in a game that highlighted the gulf in class between Qatar and the other teams in their group.
Boulaye Dia put Senegal ahead in the 41st minute, and Famara Diedhiou added a second just three minutes into the second half. Qatar had a small period where they went toe-to-toe with Senegal and scored their first-ever World Cup goal from a thumping header by Mohammed Muntari.
Sheffield United’s Iliman Ndiaye assisted Bamba Dieng to make it 3-1, with Qatar now facing being eliminated from the World Cup within the first week if Netherlands avoid defeat against Ecuador.
Carl Anka, Nick Miller and Ahmed Walid analyse the key talking points.
Any improvement for Qatar?
This Qatar team has been more than a decade in the making. Years of progress and millions of pounds have been spent to take a Qatar from a relative minnow status, to one of naturalised players to one of homegrown talent. FIFA rankings will tell you Qatar Men’s Team normally hovers around 80 in the FIFA rankings. The class of 2022 are currently ranked 50 – not the highest the nation has ever been, but 43 places higher than their status in 2018.
This is one of the best Qatar teams ever made… and they finished this “must win” game without registering a shot on target until the 62nd minute. (And even the attempt was borderline, with Édouard Mendy choosing to be safe rather than sorry.)
The below tweet went out at half time at this game
Qatar are halfway through their 2022 #FIFAWorldCup group stage. They’ve had 7 shots. ??
The record low in a round one group stage by a team in recorded history (since 1966) is 17, by Costa Rica in 1990 and New Zealand in 2010. pic.twitter.com/9Sq6ls09CC
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) November 25, 2022
An unfortunate defensive error from Boualem Khoukhi lead to Sengal’s first goal, and Qatar looked on their way to sleeping waking their way through to a drab defeat after Famara Diedhiou added a second for Senegal. It was only when they started working the ball more to their wing-backs who started slinging some crosses into the mixer. More than a decade worth of planning – including getting Xavi to work with the Aspire Academy – and the most effective phase of play came from Qatar playing a bit more like Tony Pulis’ Stoke. (Or Roberto Martinez’s Wigan)
Bamba Dieng’s goal stopped any talk of a possible comeback, but Qatar managed to show some signs of quality, just for a little bit. They will now will surely join South Africa 2010 in being a host nation that failed to qualify from the Group Stages.
All eyes on Senegal from Group B
England and the USA will have been limbering up for their own game as Senegal made rather heavy work of beating arguably the worst host team in the history of the World Cup. But if they were watching, their eyes may well have been lighting up at the prospect of facing Aliou Cisse’s men.
The winners of Group B will face the runners up of Group A, and on the assumption that the Netherlands will top Group A, it will be either Senegal or Ecuador to face one of England, USA or Iran. At the time of writing the England v USA encounter is a few hours away, but the winners of that one will be favourites to finish first in their section.
And none of them will exactly be quaking in their boots. We all wondered how Senegal would get on without Sadio Mane, and on this evidence the answer is: not amazingly. Senegal won, they did their job and are now well-placed for what will probably be a one-game playoff with Ecuador to qualify for the next phase. But they will have to be much, much better than this to trouble any of the teams from Group B.
Qatar’s use of wing-backs
After a negative first half in possession, Qatar found a good solution against Senegal’s off-ball organization. By using their wing-backs correctly and playing cross field passes into them, Qatar managed to find the spaces outside Senegal’s defensive block.
Qatar’s right wing-back, Ismaeel Mohammad found himself in the box, attacking a diagonal cross from the left side in the 66th minute but Edouard Mendy denied him. 11 minutes later, a cross field pass found Mohammad on the right and his cross into the box was headed home by Mohammed Muntari.
The correct solution, but it wasn’t enough as Qatar lose their second game in the group stage.
Senegal’s off-ball organisation
For the second game in a row it’s Senegal’s off ball organisation that caught the eye. In the first game against the Netherlands, they managed to restrict Dutch progression through the midfield, apart from a few dribbles from Frenkie de Jong.
Here, it’s a 4-2-3-1 without the ball with Famara Diédhiou behind Boulaye Dia. Dia and the wide players, Ismaila Sarr and Krepin Diatta focusing on pressing Qatar’s three centre-backs with Diedhiou behind them to mark Assim Madibo. As for Nampals Mendy and Idrissa Gueye they are focusing on marking the other Qatari midfielders in Hassan Al Haydos and Karim Boudaif.
Qatar’s insistence on playing through the midfield and not using their wing-backs enough in the first half meant they went to go long with the midfield options taken out. Senegal were more than happy to leave the Qatari wing-backs free for their full-backs to cover.
In the 2nd half Senegal dropped deeper in a 4-4-2 shape before moving to a 4-3-3 for more defensive solidity after 19 minutes. That’s because Qatar found a solution: using the wing-backs correctly
From Boreham Wood to the World Cup
Three years ago, Iliman Ndiaye was playing in the National League for Boreham Wood. Actually, scratch that: he was on the books of Boreham Wood, but never made a first-team appearance. He later made it to the Sheffield United youth ranks, but as recently as 2020 there was some doubt over whether he would make it beyond their under-23s team.
But by the beginning of last season he had established himself in the Blades’ starting XI, part of a team that came within a penalty shootout of reaching the Championship playoff final and the brink of the Premier League.
[Go Deep ID=”3758702″]
This, though, is so much better. Ndiaye’s selection in the Senegal squad wasn’t a given, and him actually getting onto the pitch felt like a bit of a long shot. But he was introduced with 15 minutes remaining and within five minutes he had set up a goal for Bamba Dieng.
There’s plenty to be disheartened and dismayed about at this World Cup, so it’s wonderful when stories like that present themselves.
Qatar’s goalkeeping uncertainty
You can spend 15 years essentially growing players in labs, lay out $200billion to bring the football world to your country and then spend the best part of six months in a training camp preparing for the tournament.
But if your goalkeeper is no good, then all of that will be pointless. Felix Sanchez switched things up in goal for this game, after Saad Al Sheeb proved too shaky in the opener against Ecuador, bringing in Meshaal Barsham instead. But it didn’t make things much more secure: Barsham flew off his line a few times in the first half to heart-stopping effect, looking like he was trying to replicate his brother’s high jump exploits. You may remember Mutaz Essa Barshim from sharing the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo last year, but his aerial arc was much more graceful than his brother’s.
In all fairness, there probably wasn’t much that Barsham could do about either Senegal goal, but if he or Al Sheeb were really the best they could do in goal, they never stood a chance of making it beyond the group stage.
(Top photo: Sarah Stier – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)