A debut to remember for Senegal
Debutants Senegal defeat USA
One down after just 180 seconds before turning it around
Four goals, four goal scorers
When a country that holds the record for the number of tournament appearances takes on one making its debut, you might fear the worst, particularly when the former takes the lead after just 180 seconds...
However, the match between USA and Senegal to get Group D of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™ under way produced a different course of events. The young Lions of Teranga drew level just before the break, before pulling away in the second half to record a 4-1 win – their first in this competition.
"I’m so happy, it’s unbelievable!" coach Malick Daf told FIFA.com just after the final whistle sounded at the Estadio Kleber Andrade. "We didn’t play well in the first half but we made a few changes at the break that came off. It’s great that we won our first match. The quality we have throughout the squad was shown by the fact that the four goals came from four different players, two of them substitutes. That’s one of our strengths."
The USA team were chasing shadows after the break, despite the efforts of captain and star player Giovanni Reyna. "I’m obviously very happy and I can’t find the words to describe it," said Souleymane Faye outside the changing rooms. It was Faye who notched the equaliser in first-half injury time, dealing a real psychological blow to their opponents.
"Scoring your country’s first goal at a FIFA tournament is something special. This was a good start but we need to carry on from here. Football is 11 versus 11 and history means nothing. We had respect for USA but we knew that we stood a chance. Of course going 1-0 down was a setback but we soon put it behind us and fought our way back into the match."
Aliou Balde, who scored the crucial goal to make it 2-1, listened attentively to his team-mate before adding: "We worked really hard and we did it. It was our first match and even though we went behind early, we never stopped believing in ourselves."
Things will not be getting any easier for the African nation in Group D from hereon in, as they prepare to take on two continental champions in the Netherlands (30 October) and Japan (2 November).
"Why shouldn’t we be the ones to cause a few surprises here in Brazil?" coach Daf asked. Just a few months ago, the U-20 team made it through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland. "We’re not finished here – we’re not here just to make up the numbers," he added. "We want to achieve something."
Brazil 2019: USA - SEN
Senegal players celebrate - FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019
VITORIA, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 27: Issaga Kane, Souleymane Faye, and Birame Diaw of Senegal celebrate after Faye scored a goal during the Group D Match bet...
FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 - Ousmane Ba of Senegal makes a save off of a corner kick
VITORIA, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 27: Ousmane Ba of Senegal makes a save off of a corner kick during the Group D Match between USA and Senegal in the FIFA U-1...