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Senegal break African record…but expect more to fall at the World Cup

The Teranga Lions helped establish a new record for African teams at the World Cup with victory over Ecuador

Senegal’s 2-1 victory over Ecuador on Tuesday ensured their progression to the World Cup Round of 16, while also helping to establish an African record in the tournament history.

The Teranga Lions’ triumph—secured by Kalidou Koulibaly’s magnificent finish after Ismaila Sarr had opened the scoring from the penalty spot—was enough to guarantee Senegal reach the knockouts for the second time in their history.

Having already won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, Senegal are aiming to follow in the footsteps of the squad’s Golden Generation and advance to the quarter-final in 2002.

They’ll also be hoping, after being pitted against England in the Last 16, that they can not only emulate the 2002 side’s Last Eight finish, but even break an African record and become the first side from the continent to reach the semi-finals.

Already, Senegal have contributed to an African record being broken at this tournament.

Never before in Africa’s World Cup history have the continent’s teams won more than three matches between them in the group stage of the tournament.

Indeed, for the last six editions of the tournament, African teams have been very consistent, winning three group-stage matches every campaign from 1998 to 2018.

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Before that Africa had never won more than two matches at any edition of the tournament, having registered either one or two victories between 1978—when Tunisia secured Africa’s first ever World Cup win by beating Mexico—and 1994, when only three African teams took part.

Already this tournament, Africa have won four matches and the group stage isn’t even complete.

Senegal have been responsible for two victories—defeating Qatar before dispatching Ecuador—while Morocco’s 1-0 success over Belgium and Ghana’s 3-2 victory over Ghana have also contributed to Africa’s record-breaking haul at the tournament.

While Senegal’s victories—against teams ranked much lower than then in the Fifa World Rankings—were to be expected perhaps, Morocco’s win against Belgium and Ghana’s success against South Korea have both been overachievements for the continent’s teams.

Does this represent evidence of long-term progression for African sides, or is it a fortuitous run? Only time will tell, perhaps, as the fortunes of Africa’s teams become clearer at the 2022 tournament, but already, it’s an impressive landmark to have passed.

In both 2002 and 2010, Africa hit a record four victories in a single World Cup tournament—with Senegal and Ghana adding to group-stage successes—can Tunisia, Cameroon, Ghana or Morocco ensure that this record is hit or even surpassed before we reach the knockouts this year?

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