Each World Cup tends to see an African team shine. In 2002, it was the turn of Senegal. Led by the Frenchman, Bruno Metsu and a starting XI of players based in the French domestic leagues, the opener against France was David vs Goliath in every sense. At the time, France were both World and European champions and despite losing Robert Pires at the peak of his powers to a cruciate injury a couple of months before the World Cup and Zinedine Zidane struggling for fitness for this game, the consensus stood that France would still win comfortably.
The Teranga Lions did not read the script. With a forward thinking Manager behind them, they were able to play without inhibitions and sought to impose themselves on the biggest stage and were deserved winners on the day with Papa Bouba Diop’s scrappy goal. The strength of the team lay in the spirit fostered by Metsu.
A lot of the Senegalese players would go on to earn big money moves on the back of their World Cup form. El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao, two of the more high profile members joined Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool and struggled to reach the heights of their Asian odyssey. It is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable World Cup moments.
What they said
“By concentrating five players in midfield my friend Metsu concocted a nice plan. Individually and collectively we couldn’t find a solution. Senegal were better than us.”
Roger Lemerre, the French coach.
“We worked as hard as any team in the world in training … but you don’t have to be a great manager to send out a team in a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3 or whatever because anyone can do that. I am a big believer in human values, if you don’t love your players you don’t get results. It’s all about the little something extra that a manager can bring, the boost that you give the players and they give you.”
Bruno Metsu passed away last year at the age of 59 after a battle with cancer. May his soul rest in peace.