Washington — Senegal lost 2-0 to the Netherlands, Tunisia drew against Denmark, as did Morocco against Croatia. No Africa team victories yet, but fans in the United States aren’t discouraged. It’s early in World Cup play and teams still have chances to win and advance to the next phase.
It was undeniably heartbreaking for the fans of the Senegalese team to see the Lions of Teranga lose their first World Cup game against the Netherlands. But fans like Sadio Yaya Barry are keeping their hopes alive.
“I would like to congratulate the Senegalese team,” Barry, the president of the New York-based Association of Senegalese in America, told VOA. “It’s a very strong team. We know we lost the first game, but we do see a young team who are very dedicated, involved and motivated to win the game … the Senegalese played very well.”
He added that “people sometimes forget who is the Netherlands team. They are very strong in Europe.”
However, losing hurt even more when goalkeeper Edouard Mendy couldn’t stop two goals a few minutes before the end of the game.
The Senegalese suffered another loss as midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate had to leave the game after injuring a thigh muscle. This came after the team lost star player Sadio Mane before the start of the tournament, also because of injuries.
Other teams battled to draws, Tunisia against Denmark on Tuesday, and Morocco against Croatia on Wednesday.
Hassan Samrhouni, president of the Washington Moroccan-American Club, based in Washington, described the Wednesday draw as “a great start for Morocco. Remember, we are playing the runner-up team, which played the final at the last World Cup.” In 2018, Croatia played against France in the World Cup finals.
He reminded fans that “one point is a great point for us. Remember, Argentina has zero points as well as Germany has zero points.”
The first few days of the event have seen these two surprises — Saudi Arabia beating Argentina and Japan beating Germany.
Prior World Cup games have also had upsets, including in 2002, when Senegal claimed a first-round victory over then-world champion France.
Barry remembers the match and said he believes that “this time the African nations are going to make a big improvement, not only to quarterfinals but to reach the semifinals — and why not the finals?”
He added, “I believe it’s time for the African continent to get that cup and take it to Africa. It is very possible. We have the teams, we have the qualifications and requirements we need. And all those players, they are very professional.”
The next games for the African teams are scheduled Thursday, when Ghana will play against Portugal and Cameroon will play against Switzerland.
Samrhouni, who played for his country’s national soccer team, advised players that “World Cup is one time every four years and maybe one time in a player’s career” and urged them to “take advantage of it.”