Senegal versus Qatar was a game of blunders. Sure, Senegal sent a couple of shots wide, and their keeper had to make a big save in the game’s opening minutes. Qatar looked solid on defense and somewhat threatening on offense. But, that changed with the game’s first serious mistake.

Krepin Diatta sent a cross in from the wing in the 41st minute. When Boualem Khoukhi tried to clear it, he lost his footing, mistakenly setting the ball for a perfect strike. Boulaye Dia took full advantage of it and tapped his attempt in to score Senegal’s first goal at the 2022 World Cup.

After that, it seemed understudy keeper Meshaal Barsham lost control of the game. He came out of his box often to make acrobatic saves, but he nearly gave up a penalty once and almost abandoned his undefended goal.

Alanyaspor striker Famara Diedhiou took full advantage of the out-of-sorts defense. After positioning himself just outside of the six-yard box, he contorted his body and flicked the ball with his head. Barsham leaped up to try and save it, but he couldn’t reach the floating ball in time. Senegal 2, Qatar 0.

However, Qatar struck back. Attacking pair Akram Afif and Almoez Ali combined multiple times to put Edouard Mendy to work. Qatar’s attack suddenly came alive, and before long, Qatar had its first-ever goal at the World Cup. Ismael Mohammad sent in a perfect cross to super-sub Mohammed Muntari, who rose above Koulibaly to guide the cross into the bottom left corner. Senegal 2, Qatar 1.

Senegal quickly breached the Qatari defense yet again with an Iliman Ndiaye cross into the box. Marseille youngster Bamba Dieng worked himself free, found the ball in an open patch of grass, and neatly knocked in Senegal’s third goal.

Senegal’s 3-1 win over Qatar puts them in a better position to overtake Ecuador for second place.

  • A Netherlands win would let them control their own destiny and go for either a win or a draw(if they have a better goal differential).
  • If the Dutch draw, Senegal can still control their destiny, but they have to win over Ecuador. It’s unfavorable for Senegal because Ecuador can try to go for a draw the entire match.
  • If the Netherlands loses, Senegal would have to rely on a favorable result from Qatar vs. the Netherlands. Ecuador would clinch first place with a draw, and Senegal would need to have a better goal differential than the Netherlands if they win against Qatar.

For Qatar, things are even more important. Qatar will be mathematically eliminated with anything but a Netherlands loss. Things look slim for the reigning Asian Cup winners, and panic is setting in the Qatari camp.

Did Cisse’s 4-4-2 work?

Instead of the 4-3-3 that manager Aliou Cisse lined up with against Iran and the Netherlands, Aliou Cisse switched his formation to a 4-4-2. The decision comes after Kouyate twisted his ankle against the Netherlands, leaving Cisse with only two reliable midfielders.

Cisse put Idrissa Gueye and Nampalys Mendy in the center and moved Ismaila Sarr and Krepin Diatta to the left and right midfield positions. Dia stayed up top, and Diedhiou joined him after staying on the bench against the Netherlands.

Cisse had an easier time choosing his defense. Ismail Jakobs fought his way into a starting spot at left-back, and Abdou Diallo beat Pape Abou Cisse for a starting spot at center-back. Kalidou Koulibaly and right-back Youssouf Sabaly started the match as well.

Cisse’s tactical switch looks great on Senegal. They only conceded .03 xG in the first half, where they did not park the bus, and the Lions of Teranga looked as offensively adept as ever. Their ability to weasel into the box and find easy shots put them over the edge and gave them three points going into a showdown with Ecuador.

With their compact lineup, Senegal also dominated possession. They had almost 100 more completed passes than Qatar, and over half came in the attacking half. Senegal held 55% possession and made perfect use of it.

Mistake upon mistake for the Maroons

It was a woeful day for Qatar, and all 41,797 spectators in the stands knew it. Although no one seriously expected Qatar to upset Senegal, their performance was seriously depressing.

Outside of Pedro Miguel, a defensive stalwart, the defense was porous at best, and self-destructive at its worst. The midfield could only make big plays after Senegal attempted to wait out the final 20 minutes by parking the bus. Although Mendy made a number of big saves, the attack was uninspiring.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that months of isolated, secretive training, countless of friendlies, and hours of tactical revisions have resulted in 180 minutes of pure mediocrity.

Qatar still does have a chance at advancing; albeit a slim one. At the end of the game, the Qatari players seemed resigned to their fate.

Photo credit: IMAGO / PanoramiC

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final