Senegal seeking piece of history in Qatar: Koulibaly

  • World
  • Wednesday, 30 Nov 2022

DOHA, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Kalidou Koulibaly said Senegal will seek to "make history" as they prepare for their first appearance in the FIFA World Cup knockout phase since 2002.

The Chelsea defender scored the winning goal as Senegal booked a place in the last 16 in Qatar with a 2-1 victory over Ecuador on Tuesday.

"Our goal when we arrived was to go beyond the first round so we can be happy, but we want to go further," Koulibaly told a news conference.

"We are like one big family and we want to make history together. Every game will be tough and we have to concentrate on our next game and respect our opponents."

Koulibaly dedicated Tuesday's victory to former Senegal midfielder Papa Bouba Diop, who died in 2020, and striker Sadio Mane, who was ruled out of the tournament days before it began because of a leg injury.

"Even though he [Mane] is not with us, we feel like he is a part of this," the 31-year-old center back said. "I couldn't believe it when I heard that he wouldn't be playing [in Qatar]. We knew there would be more pressure on us because he is our star and our symbol. But it also made us want to show that Senegal is a team of 11 players and now is the time for other players to shine."

Head coach Aliou Cisse, who captained the Senegal team that reached the quarterfinals in Japan and South Korea 20 years ago, declined to name his preferred opponents in the next round here.

He said Senegal's Africa Cup of Nations triumph in February would hold his players in good stead for the rigors ahead.

"We don't know who our next opponents are going to be yet," he said. "But we are used to these games. The Africa Cup of Nations helped us prepare. We just have to concentrate on resting and being ready for the next match."

He added: "At this stage there is no preference over who we are going to play. It's the World Cup round of 16 and only the best teams in the world will be competing. We need to be prepared to come up against any team."

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