Senegal goalkeeper Al Seyni Ndiaye insists he and his team-mates still have every chance of going far at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011 despite Saturday’s loss to Italy. With one Group A game remaining, the charismatic No1 hopes to share a few more frenzied youza dances with the Lions of Teranga’s travelling support.
Ndiaye made a memorable impression as Senegal won their opening encounter against Switzerland on penalties, rushing to celebrate with his team’s ecstatic fans after keeping out the crucial spot-kick of fearsome Swiss forward Dejan Stankovic. As the Stadio del Mare soaked up the drama, Ndiaye danced away on the sand to express his delight.
“The youza is a traditional Senegalese dance,” he told FIFA.com. “It was the first thing that came into my head after I stopped the final penalty. I raced over to our supporters and I just started dancing the youza. I was ready to do it again against Italy, but unfortunately things turned out differently.”
Still only 21, Ndiaye is one of the most experienced players in the Senegal squad, having already participated in the 2007 and 2008 editions, as well as being voted best goalkeeper during the African qualifiers in 2007 and 2011. Tall, dressed entirely in black and with his hair dyed blond, he is an easily recognisable figure too.
“I always try to distinguish myself, right down to my look,” he explained. “I like everything that’s new. In fact, that’s why I started playing beach soccer. I played in a tournament to try it out and I loved it straight away. That’s where everything began for me.”
Against Italy, the young custodian had been hoping for a repeat of the 2007 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, when his saves helped Senegal defeat La Squadra Azzurra after extra time. “That’s the way beach soccer is. We were successful on that occasion, but today we couldn’t win. These things happen.”
What’s good is that we’re still in control of our own destiny.
The result was nonetheless frustrating for the African hopefuls, given that they managed to take the lead in the final minute after having trailed for much of the game. That was not enough to see them home, however, and, in a frantic finale, Senegal’s Pape Koukpaki and Italy’s Paolo Palmacci scored two goals each in the space of just 13 seconds.
“I don’t remember having ever been involved in such a tense match,” said Ndiaye. “With so many goals, it was hard to follow who was winning and who was losing. I want to congratulate the Italians and I hope they go through.”
Ultimately, Senegal were made to pay for a number of mistakes and Ndiaye was culpable for Italy’s second goal – though he redeemed himself with a string of exceptional interventions throughout the match. “I don’t know why, but we started the game badly,” said the No1. “It’s as if we only started playing in the third period, but I’m happy with how everyone reacted and with my own personal performance. I admit I made a mistake on Palmacci’s shot, but I think I more than made up for that with the saves I pulled off afterwards.”
The result has left Senegal with a real challenge if they are to secure a place in the knockout phase, but Ndiaye remains confident his side will go through. “We beat Switzerland, runners-up at the last World Cup, and lost on penalties to an Italy team playing in front of their own fans,” he explained. “If we can beat Iran (on Monday), we’re sure of progressing. What’s good is that we’re still in control of our own destiny.”
Indeed, should they prevail, he expects the Lions of Teranga to then better their quarter-final finish in 2007. “We can go even further. I’m convinced that if we beat Iran we’ll reach the semi-finals. That’s the minimum that all the Senegalese fans watching us on TV are expecting and we can’t let them down.” The Stadio del Mare may not have seen the last of the youza.