Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly believes the fact his team represent Africa’s last World Cup hope should motivate the players rather than increase the pressure going into their final game in Group H against Colombia Thursday.
It is just Senegal’s second appearance at the tournament, after reaching the quarter-finals on their debut in 2002, and they need a point to secure a place in the last 16 against Jose Pekerman’s side (1400 GMT kick-off).
Aliou Cisse’s side will attempt to succeed where the rest of their continental rivals failed, with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all set to bow out after the group phase.
“I think it should be more of a positive thing rather than pressure,” Napoli centre-back Koulibaly told reporters on Wednesday.
“We know we have the whole continent behind us. They’re all going to support us and we know we can do it.”
“We know we already have 15 million Senegalese behind us and now we have all the continent. It’s up to us to make them proud, to fly the flag for Senegal and Africa at this World Cup.”
Senegal defeated Poland 2-1 in their opening game and twice led Japan before settling for a 2-2 draw that left both countries with four points.
Colombia must win in Samara to guarantee a spot in the knockout rounds, with Jose Pekerman’s men impressing in a 3-0 victory over Poland last time out.
“We know it’s a very strong Colombia team,” said Koulibaly. “But we have our own weapons and we’ll give our all to win and not concede.
“If we do that we’ll qualify. We know in attack we have magicians who are capable of scoring at any moment.
“We’re going to do our utmost to get to the last 16 and I think we have everything we need to do that.”
The 42-year-old Cisse, who was captain of the Senegal side at the 2002 finals, said the brief for his players will be a straightforward one.
“Tomorrow when we get onto the pitch, the instructions to the players will be to play to win,” said Cisse, with Senegal trailing group leaders Japan only on disciplinary record.
“I think Colombia and Senegal have practically the same style of play. I think it’s to going to be a keenly disputed match, a very interesting match with two teams who could be in the last 16.”
“I think Colombia could pose us some problems but we have a few tricks up our sleeves as well,” added Cisse, who said Mbaye Niang will be fit after limping off in the closing minutes against Japan.
Photo: AFP/ Emmanuel Dunand