Whatever happened to Senegal’s 2002 World Cup squad?
When Senegal qualified for the 2002 World Cup, they were drawn in Group A with Denmark, defending champions France, and Uruguay. No one expected Senegal to do anything in their first World Cup, and were expected to finish bottom of the group. Being in the opening game of the tournament against France, one of the favourites, was seen as a baptism of fire and the French were going to win with ease…weren’t they?
It turned out otherwise! In one of the biggest World Cup shocks ever, the plucky Lions of Teranga beat France 1-0 with midfielder Papa Diop scoring the only goal in the 30th minute. It was almost 2-0 when Khalilou Fadiga rattled the bar after turning Franck Leboeuf inside out.
Senegal would draw their next two group games to qualify for the knockout stages. They beat Sweden 2-1 in the last 16 with an extra-time Golden Goal from Henri Camara, taking them to a quarter final match against Turkey and becoming only the second African time (at the time, Ghana made it to the quarters in 2010) to reach that stage of the tournament.
Sadly, the fairytale would end here as Turkey won the quarter final 1-0 thanks to another Golden Goal, this time by ?lhan Mansiz.
Senegal made friends around the world with their spirited run and a lot of their squad earned massive moves to bigger leagues due to their performances.
Whatever happened to that young squad who got to the quarter-finals on their début appearance? Let’s find out…
1 – Tony Sylva – Goalkeeper – 27 (at time of tournament)
At the time of the tournament, Tony was Monaco’s long-term reserve goalkeeper. He eventually left the club in 2004 after 11 years, only playing 24 league games for the club in that time, although he had loan spells at Gazelec, Epnial and Ajaccio during his time at Monaco.
He moved to Lille and became first choice, playing 163 games over a four year spell before moving to Turkish side Trabzonspor. Tony spent two seasons at the club before retiring in 2010 with 83 international caps to his name.
2 – Omar Daf – Defender – 25
Omar had a solid career before and after the World Cup, spending the majority of his professional career at Sochaux. He made 185 league appearances from 1997-2009 before moving to Brest. Omar moved back to Sochaux at the start of the season but hasn’t made a single appearance and is widely expected to retire at the end of the season.
3 – Pape Sarr – Midfielder – 24
The attacking midfielder was expected to be the focal point of Senegal’s midfield but he only made one appearance at the World Cup against Denmark in the group stages. His career seemed to steadily deteriorate after the World Cup as he slid down the French leagues. He was last seen at fourth division team Olympique Noisy-le-Sec in 2010.
4 – Papa Malick Diop – Defender – 27
Diop was a former captain of Senegal and was once described at the heart and soul of the side, but by the time the World Cup came around he was no longer a first choice player for the team. Despite his very slight fall from grace, he played every game for The Lions of Teranga.
Diop had a fairly nomadic career with his longest spell at a club was only four seasons. Ironically, he only played 22 games for Lorient in that period but his shorter spells at other clubs saw him play a bit more regularly. He retired in 2008 after only playing four games for Metz in two seasons.
5- Alassane N’Dour – Midfielder – 20
One of the youngest members of the squad, he had just completed his first season of professional football with AS Saint-Etienne by the time the World Cup came round. The BBC website’s preview of the defensive midfielder suggested he had a long international career ahead of him, but he never received another cap for Senegal after the World Cup.
Alassane never really lived up to his promise and only played 78 games over a 10-year career that saw unsuccessful spells at ASSE, West Brom, Troyes, Walsall and Greek lower league side Doxa Drama.