Senegal and Netherlands both qualified for the World Cup knockout stages from Group A on Tuesday at Qatar 2022.
For the Netherlands, a comfortable 2-0 win against host nation Qatar ensured its progression to the last 16, while Senegal overcame Ecuador 2-1 with a hard-earned victory.
In a tense, must-win game for Senegal, the Lions of Teranga went ahead through Ismaïla Sarr’s penalty before Moisés Caicedo leveled for Ecuador in the second half.
But the Africa Cup of Nations champion responded immediately as captain Kalidou Koulibaly struck home from a free-kick into the box.
Ecuador pushed for an equalizer, which would have seen El Tri qualify ahead of Senegal, but Koulibaly’s strike proved decisive, ensuring his side reaches the World Cup knockout stages for the first time since 2002.
“We knew that it was a tough game against a very good team,” Koulibaly told beIN Sports. “We wanted to make the story of our country and today we had a lot of determination to win this game and we won it – we can be happy.”
It hasn’t been an easy campaign for Senegal following injuries to Sadio Mane ahead of the tournament and Cheikhou Kouyaté during the first game.
After losing its opening game against the Netherlands, Aliou Cissé’s side responded with back-to-back wins against Qatar and Ecuador.
There was added emotion for Senegal’s players with Tuesday marking two years since the death of Papa Bouba Diop, the versatile midfielder who made 63 appearances for the Senegalese national team.
“This game is for Sadio but also for Papa Bouba Diop … We wanted to make something special and today we can be happy,” Koulibaly added.
The result means the Netherlands and Senegal join Brazil, France and Portugal as the first five teams to qualify from the group stages.
With Qatar having lost two World Cup games going into Tuesday’s match, the Netherlands’ spot in the last 16 seemed a formality – and so it proved.
The Oranje opened the scoring in the 26th minute with some slick passing between Davy Klaassen, Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo, who struck a sumptuous low finish from the edge of the box.
Frenkie de Jong doubled the Dutch lead just after the half-time break, tapping in after Depay’s initial shot was palmed into the midfielder’s path.
It was a complete performance from the Netherlands, which will now face the second-placed team from Group B brimming with confidence having only conceded one goal so far at Qatar 2022.
Qatar, meanwhile, ends its campaign winless – the only side ever to host a World Cup and fail to get a single point during the group stages.