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Ecuador 1-2 Senegal: Africa’s champions progress as Sarr steps into Mane’s shoes

Ecuador 1-2 Senegal

The Teranga Lions defeated Ecuador 2-1 in their final Group A game on Tuesday to advance to the knockout stages for only the second time in their history.

Ismaila Sarr’s penalty was cancelled out by Moses Caicedo, but Kalidou Koulibaly’s magnificent reaction and powerful finish from a corner two and a half minutes later ensured an immediate response from Africa’s champions.

In light of Tuesday’s showdown, Ed Dove reviews the big talking points from the Teranga Lions’ triumph.

Aliou Cisse gets it right

Cisse made another tactical shift to his side before the Ecuador meeting, again mixing things up after having shuffled his pack for the second group game against Qatar.

He plumped for a sole striker—Boulaye Dia—returning to the midfield three that has become a staple of the side’s greatest successes under Ciss.

Cheikhou Kouyate lost his place for the Qatar game, and here it was Nampalys Mendy who stepped out of the side, with Pathe Ciss partnering Pape Gueye and Idrissa Gana Gueye in midfield.

Senegal managed to drop into an effective block when Ecuador had possession, and—particularly with danger out wide—posed a constant threat in possession.

  • Gana plays a more advanced roleThe reconfigured midfield meant a more advanced role for Idrissa Gana Gueye—playing in his 99th international.One of the Premier League’s most effective destroyers over the last decade, Gueye was used in a more advanced role during his time in the Diambars academy and subsequently with LOSC Lille.He even adopted a more offensive brief during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as Senegal reached the final.Here, again, with Cisse seeking a balance between stability and offensive threat, Gueye operated behind the central striker, and while he didn’t create any goalscoring chances, he was Senegal’s most consistent passer.
  • Idrissa Gueye of SenegalGetty ImagesBut Gueye will miss the Last 16However, while Gueye was again influential for the Lions in a crunch clash, he’ll play no part in the Second Round—and will have to wait for his 100th international cap.A Last 16 bout against the Group B winners—potentially England—would have been a career highlight for the experienced midfielder, but instead, a second yellow card—for a shoulder barge—now leads to a suspension.He’ll need Senegal to advance to the quarter-finals if he’s to complete his century in Qatar.

Sarr delivers the goods

As well as opening the scoring from the spot, Sarr was one of Senegal’s main threats during the first half.

Instead of featuring on the right flank, he moved across to the left—taking the absent Sadio Mane’s role—and built on his encouraging displays to date with a vibrant showing.

Even before the penalty, he’d proved effective cutting in from the right—sending a dangerous ball over in the 22nd minute—and it was clear that Ecuador were struggling to deal with his pace and movement even before he was felled in the box.

His finish from the spot was exceptionally cool given the pressure of the occasion, while Sarr later represented a valuable outball for the Lions during the second period.

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