Netherlands handled the host nation Qatar without any trouble, and so Senegal and Ecuador were to duel it out for second place in the group and a berth in the Round of 16. Ecuador was decidedly stiff and stale, needing only a draw from the match, while Senegal needing a win was aggressive from the start. Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye might have scored the opening goal with just minutes gone in the match but went wide by just a hair. The Lions of Teranga would get their much-needed goal just before the half, courtesy of a penalty kick successfully executed by Ismaila Sarr in the 42’ coming after he was fouled charging towards goal.
When the South American nation had to fight back, however, they certainly showed the ability to do so led by veteran striker and former Evertonian Enner Valencia. A good corner on the heels of Gana’s second yellow card of the World Cup, as well as poor Senegalese marking, led to Brighton’s Moises Caicedo finishing a sitter provided by the Ecuadorian combination of Gonzalo Plata and Felix Torres. Only minutes later though, Gueye won a freekick deep in the Ecuadorian half and his delivery was partly cleared by Valencia only to deflect to Senegalese captain Kalidou Koulibaly, who would not miss the target on this day.
From there on, the party was back on for Senegal, and they would hold on to that 2-1 scoreline to put them squarely on course for a matchup against England in just a few days time. They will not have Gueye who is now suspended for one game due to yellow card accumulation, but if they can get through to the final eight of the tournament, his positive and still evolving play will be returned to that team who sorely can use his innovation and organization on the ball.
Ecuador is going home from Group A after promising performances against the Netherlands and Qatar. The Dutch will be facing the United States, who were able to make it through in their group along with England. The Three Lions will certainly be counting their blessings taking on a Lions of Teranga side shorn of three of its best players in Sadio Mane (injured before the tournament), Cheikhou Kouyaté (injured in the first game of the competition) and now Gueye.