On paper, Senegal’s run to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 semi-finals was completely unexpected. The West African country were the first tournament debutants to qualify all the way to the last-four since Ghana in 1993.
Two years later, they are at it again at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, and off to a solid start after a comfortable 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Group F.
Les Lionceaux (Lion cubs) are almost a completely different team than the one that navigated their way through Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington to the semi-finals, where they eventually finished fourth overall.
However, there is one player in the current squad that was a part of the team’s success in New Zealand: meet Moussa Ba.
Both of the teams are very good, Ba told FIFA.com before a training session in Incheon. But this group has something special, more than the other. This team has something better.
That will surely be a warning to everyone at Korea Republic 2017. If anyone is qualified to give that assessment, though, it is Ba. So what is so special about this incarnation compared to the one two years ago?
The first had good spirit, good players, same as this one. With this year, for example, if you compare player-by-player with the previous one, this has more potential and more quality in the first team.
Players like Ibrahima Niane, Cavin Diagne, Ibrahima Ndiaye, Aliou Badji and Krepin Diatta caused problems for Saudi Arabia’s defence all match long, while Senegal’s own backline looked sturdy and organised throughout their opening match.
Our defence is really good, our midfielders are the same and the attack also. The most powerful side of this team is going forward. We have strikers who are top players. That’s one thing this team has more of than in 2015.”
We all know the USA team are very good, same as us,” Ba said, looking ahead to the match against the CONCACAF champions. “We know our quality. We can do a lot of things at this World Cup.”
When asked who influenced him the most as a player, Ba does not skip a beat. “Since I was young, my favourite player has always been Xavi Hernandez. I’m playing as a centre back and midfielder, but the player I love the most is Xavi! For me, he’s the best player to watch.
When told that Xavi had played at, and lifted the trophy in 1999, at the very tournament Ba is competing in, he breaks out into an infectious smile. Really? I hope I follow him.”
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football