It's time for Africa! Senegal's Teranga Lions roar in Russia.
figure By JAMES ONYANGO MWAMBAbr It did not matter which African country you came from. African fans in the sold-out Spartak Moscow Stadium on Tuesday identified with Senegals dreadlocked and lanky coach Aliou Cisse for redeeming the continents pride at the Fifa World Cup.
When Cisse captained Senegal to the quarter-finals of the 2002 Fifa World Cup in South Korea and Japan, the signs were already there that he was destined for greatness. After all, a chick that will grow into a cock can be spotted on the very day it hatches.
To reach the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, Senegal beat defending champions France along the way, underlining the teams pedigree much the same way Mexico beat Germany in Group H match on Monday here at Luzhniki Stadium.As a player, Cisse was widely-travelled, having plied his trade in the French top-flight with Lille, PSG and Montpellier before joining Birmingham City and Portsmouth in England.
As coach, Tuesday was one of the proudest moments for the dreadlocked 42-year-old who took over as coach of Teranga Lions in 2012.Standing five feet, 11 inches tall, the lanky coach was animated throughout Tuesdays match as his team, ranked 27th globally, beat eight-ranked Poland 2-1 in Group H match. During the match, Polands Robert Lewandowski threatened in the 10th minute and Cisse shouted something from the touchline to his defensive trio of Napoli centre back Kalidou Koulibally, Yousouf Sabaly of French team Bordeaux and Belgian-based Mousa Wague.
From then on, the trio kept Lewandowski out of the game, reducing the Bayern Munich star to a bit part performances.And when Senegals burly forward Niang MBaye beat Polands Jakub Blaszczkowski to the ball on the left wing on 38 minutes, picked out Sadio Mane who cut to the right and found Idrisa Gueye in the centre, the Everton player released a ferocious shot that deflected off Blaszczkkowskis leg to score past Wojciech Szczesny, a band of noisy but seriously outnumbered Senegalese fans went into a frenzy.
Not that they had been muted.Their shouts had been drowned out by those of rival Polish fans who were the majority of the 41,100 fans inside the 45,000-seater stadium.
Cisse himself jumped high and pumped his fist in the air, television cameras in the stadium focusing on him few seconds longer.When Senegals Niang Mbaye who had been injured returned to the pitch and sneaked behind Polish defenders to score his teams second goal in the 75th minute, Poland's fans fell silent as a dream of victory started fading away.
Grzegorz Krychowiak scored Polands consolation in the 86th minute, but Senegal had done enough to secure all three points. At the final whistle, a bare-chest Mane led Teranga Lions in a small jig before their fans as the sound of Shakiras song Waka Waka (Its time for Africa) filled every corner of the stadium, perhaps a befitting honour to Senegal in particular and Africa in general.