Senegal overcame a robust Tanzania side to kick off their Afcon 2019 campaign with a 2-0 win.
Goals from Keita Balde and Krepin Diatta were enough to see off the tournament minnows, who seemed hellbent on fouling their illustrious opponents rather than playing football.
Here are five things we learned as a Sadio Mane-less Senegal saw off Tanzania 2-0 in Cairo.
1. Tanzanian roughhousing
In any football tournament around the world, when you get a rank outsider facing one of the favourites, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the minnows employing an element of skullduggery in their tactics. On Sunday, Tanzania took things to a whole new level.
I love the tactic deployed by Tanzania against a superior opposition Senegal:
If you miss the ball, don't miss the leg. 😂😂#SENTAN
— Sunky 🇳🇬👊 (@olasunkanmi_s1) June 23, 2019
In the first half, Tanzania made no fewer than 12 fouls, while they extended that total to 21 by the end of the game. Quite how they didn’t receive a red card for some of their robust (putting it lightly) challenges will be one of the mysteries of this tournament.
Tanzanian strategy can be summarized to : "the man or the ball" #SENTAN
— M.A.A.N. 🇸🇳🇸🇳🇸🇳 (@moulsiMoul) June 23, 2019
We get it. Disrupt the opposition by taking out their best players and leaving them looking over their shoulders at the next oncoming artillery blast of a tackle. Still, Schalke’s Salif Sane fell foul to injury in the first half for Senegal and on another day, Tanzania will end up finishing games with eight, nine and 10 men, ridding them of the already small chance they have of competing in this competition.
— MAINA NJOKI. (@MainaNjoki019) June 23, 2019
2. Niang forgets his shooting boots
Senegal out-shot Tanzania 14-2 in the first half, with former Watford forward M’Baye Niang taking six of them all on his own.
However, Niang – who scored 14 goals on loan at Rennes last season – must have left his shooting boots back in France as, time after time, he fired high, wide or straight at the goalkeeper.
— INViCTUS (@LuneSanity) June 23, 2019
The second half, air shots and desperate swipes saw Niang extend his record to eight shots without a goal before finally being withdrawn as the game entered the closing stages.
Watching on from the stands, we get the feeling Mane may have a few strong words for his wasteful teammate in training.
3. Fine margins
This was the sixth game so far at this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations and, arguably, the fourth time a title hopeful has faced a real minnow.
However, whether it be through some resolute defending or pushing the laws of the game to their boundaries – at least in terms of physical contact – David is yet to bow down to Goliath.
Egypt vs Zimbabwe, Nigeria vs Burundi and Morocco vs Namibia have all finished in 1-0 wins for the respective favourites, while Senegal only managed to make it 2-0 thanks to an absolute thunderbolt from Diatta. The big guns have been made to seriously work for their results and in some cases, it’s even cost members of their squads to injury.
Should this trend continue, we’re sure to see a big shock sooner rather than later.
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4. Diatta delight
Making just his fourth senior appearance for Senegal, Club Brugge attacker Diatta will absolutely have been hoping to open his international goalscoring account. However, he probably wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it like this.
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) June 23, 2019
As a Senegal corner was headed out by the Tanzanian defence, Diatta took it upon himself to fire a first-time effort from well outside the area. The 20-year-old caught it right on the bounce and although it did take a slight touch on the way in, you cannot take anything away from a beautifully executed strike.
With chance after chance going begging for Niang, it felt more and more like Senegal were going to need something special to seal this result and that is exactly what they got.
5. Mane ready and waiting
Senegal created a ridiculous number of chances against Tanzania, with the likes of Balde and Ismaila Sarr – who completed a match-high seven dribbles – slicing through the defence in devastating fashion but, as we’ve mentioned, the Lions of Teranga were anything but clinical.
However, this raises a truly terrifying prospect: Mane wasn’t on the pitch. Things can only get better from here with the Liverpool ace’s suspension for picking up two bookings during qualifying now served.
Mane must have been licking his lips at the chances being created by his teammates on the pitch, while simultaneously holding his head in his hands at the comical efforts of Niang to get his name on the scoresheet.
If a Mane-less Senegal can win 2-0 so comfortably, then a side with him will be a real force of nature at Afcon 2019.