Senegal advance as Koulibaly turns the tie to send Ecuador home

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Senegal are through to the World Cup round of 16 for just the second time in their history after beating Ecuador 2-1 at Khalifa International Stadium.

Set up as a winner-takes-all clash in Group A, Senegal went ahead through Ismaila Sarr‘s penalty, were pegged back by Moises Caicedo but were ahead again inside three minutes thanks to captain Kalidou Koulibaly, to seal their place in the knockout rounds.

The reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions finished second in Group A behind Netherlands and will play the winners of Group B in the next round — England, who play Wales in their final group game later on Tuesday, are favorites but Iran or the USA could also pip them.

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JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid Reaction

1. Senegal do just enough as Koulibaly turns the tie

Senegal suffered a heartbreaking exit at Russia 2018 after losing out on a place in the round of 16 to Japan because of an inferior disciplinary record, but they have managed to get over the line in Qatar.

Needing to win to book their place in the knockout rounds, the champions of Africa went ahead just before half-time thanks to Watford winger Sarr’s penalty after a foul by Piero Hincapie. But having spent much of the first half pushing Ecuador back, Senegal were made to pay for sitting off early in the second half when Brighton midfielder Caicedo equalised with a tap-in at the back post following a corner.

It looked like setting up a frantic last period, only for Senegal to re-take the lead just two minutes later from their own set-piece through Chelsea defender Koulibaly.

Senegal were most impressive at both the start and end of the game. They began quickly and could have been 2-0 up inside 10 minutes. And when they needed to defend well in the final minutes to ensure progress, they didn’t allow Ecuador a clear-cut chance.

2. Ecuador pay for a slow start

Ecuador, under Argentinian coach Gustavo Alfaro, are at their best when they are breaking quickly, but when they twice needed to find a goal against Senegal they struggled to play on the front foot.

A draw would have seen the South Americans through and it was clear in the way they set up that they were content to contain and try to nick a goal on the break. Perhaps they underestimated the speed at which Senegal started the game and, after giving up two clear chances in the opening 10 minutes, there was a sense that it was only a matter of time before they conceded as in the first half they allowed Senegal 10 shots — more than their previous two group stage games at this World Cup combined.

Moments to exploit in transition were rare and after Sarr scored the penalty, they were only allowed back into it when Senegal fell asleep at a set piece.

Ecuador were ranked as the second-lowest team in South America before qualifying began — ahead of only Bolivia — and while it was an achievement to get here at all, there will be disappointment at failing to get out of a kind group, particularly after positive early results against Qatar and Netherlands.

3. Senegal have nothing to lose in the round of 16

Senegal are at the World Cup without their best player (Sadio Mane) but they have enough quality in the squad to worry anyone in the knockout rounds. Edouard Mendy is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and the centre-back pairing of Koulibaly (Chelsea) and Abdou Diallo (RB Leipzig) have plenty of experience at the highest level in the Champions League.

Aliou Cisse’s side conceded just twice on their way to winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year and let in just five goals in eight games in qualifying for Qatar. Their issue will be scoring goals from opening play without Mane and missing two golden chances in the first 10 minutes here might be cause for worry, but they won’t fear anyone in the next round.

One thing to watch out for in the knockouts is that Senegal are good at penalties. They won the AFCON final and qualified for the World Cup at the expense of Egypt with both decided on penalties. They are a team without a regular goalscorer but one that don’t usually concede many so it might come down to who is more composed from the spot.

Player ratings (1 = worst, 10 = best)

Ecuador: Hernan Galindez 6, Felix Torres 6, Pervis Estupinan 6, Piero Hincapie 5, Angelo Preciado 6, Moises Caicedo 7, Carlos Gruezo 5, Alan Franco 5, Gonzalo Plata 6, Michael Estrada 6, Enner Valencia 5.

Subs: Jeremy Sarmiento 6, Jose Cifuentes 6, Djorkaeff Reasco 6, Jackson Porozo 6.

Senegal: Edouard Mendy 7, Ismail Jakobs 6, Youssouf Sabaly 6, Kalidou Koulibaly 8, Abdou Diallo 7, Idrissa Gana Gueye 8, Pape Gueye 6, Iliman Ndiaye 6, Pathe Ciss 6, Ismaila Sarr 7, Boulaye Dia 6.

Subs: Bamba Dieng 6, Nampalys Mendy 6, Pape Abou Cisse 6.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Idrissa Gana Gueye

The Senegal midfielder stopped Ecuador counter-attacking and mopped up almost everything in midfield. However, he will miss the next game due to suspension after picking up a yellow card.

WORST: Enner Valencia

Ecuador’s star striker was on the fringes all night and tried to get Youssouf Sabaly sent off with a ridiculous dive.

Highlights and notable moments

Senegal went ahead via a first-half penalty, but it took some confidence from Sarr to pull this off.

Caicedo struck an equaliser to ensure Ecuador were the ones going through again…

But it took only three minutes before Koulibaly swung the tie back in Senegal’s favour.

After the match: What the players and managers said

To follow…

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– Ismaila Sarr scored Senegal’s second ever penalty in the World Cup. The other was scored in 2002 by Khalilou Fadiga against Uruguay.

– It was Sarr’s first goal for Senegal since Jan. 30, 2022 in an Africa Cup of Nations match against Equatorial Guinea.

– African teams have converted 18 of 20 penalty kicks taken in World Cup history.

– In the first half, Ecuador allowed Senegal 10 shots — more than their previous two group-stage games at this World Cup combined.

– Before Moises Caicedo’s effort, the last player to score for Ecuador in a World Cup match not named Enner Valencia was Ivan Kaviedes in the 2006 group stage vs. Costa Rica.

– Kalidou Koulibaly got his first career goal in 66 appearances for Senegal. And at 31 years and 162 days, Koulibaly becomes the oldest player to score for Senegal at a World Cup.

– At 2 minutes and 30 seconds between Caicedo and Koulibaly’s goals, it was the fastest time between two goals by opposing teams at this year’s World Cup.

– Senegal reach the round of 16 for the first time since 2002. Current Senegal’s coach Alioú Cissé captained the team last time they did it.

Up next

Ecuador: Nothing for a while, they’re off home.

Senegal: A round-of-16 clash with the winner of Group B is next on the agenda. That could be against England, Iran, USA or Wales (though that last one is unlikely) depending on results later on. The game will take place on Sunday, Dec. 4 at Al Bayt Stadium at 10 p.m. / 2 p.m. ET.

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