This match was a truly beautiful World Cup fixture. Sweden are a joy to watch at any international football tournament, on account of their brightly coloured fans, and the fans from West African nations always bring a party to a World Cup. Both teams had pulled off wonders to even make it out of their respective groups. Sweden topped Group F, beating Nigeria and pulling off draws against England and Argentina. Senegal kicked off the World Cup in Group A by stunning reigning champions France 1-0, prior to playing out entertaining draws against Denmark and Uruguay. There had been scrappy games, there had been sublime games. When Sweden met the Senegalese, sparks flew.
Sweden drew first blood early on. After a string of attacks from the Swedes, a corner was whipped in and Celtic legend Henrik Larsson headed the ball into the back of an empty net. It was empty because Senegal goalkeeper Tony Sylva was all at sea. Larsson sped away from his marker before ducking low to head in under the flapping Sylva. Despite having a man on each post, neither captain Aliou Cisse nor left back Omar Daf could do anything to stop the header from hitting the back of the net.
Not long after Larsson’s 11th-minute goal and Senegal had the ball in the back of the net. Back in 2002, the World didn’t realise that El Hadji Diouf was a Grade-A bastard, he was a bit of an unknown entity. He was forging a decent career in the French Ligue 1 for Lens, but after this World Cup it was no surprise that Liverpool bid for the forward. From the left of the box, he dribbled right, before cutting back onto his left foot, drilling the ball low to the feet of the incoming Papa Bouba Diop who tapped it easily into the back of the net. The Senegal fans went wild, for a moment, before seeing the linesman raise his flag for offside. It was a tight call, probably the collect decision, but after a period of sustained pressure from Senegal it felt harsh to rule out such a well-worked goal. Senegal kept the pressure going. El Hadji Diouf dribbled into the box, knocking the ball through the legs of Tobias Linderoth, before clashing legs with Magnus Svensson on the touchline. The referee shook his head, pointing for a goal kick, much to the
Senegal kept the pressure going. El Hadji Diouf dribbled into the box, knocking the ball through the legs of Tobias Linderoth, before clashing legs with Magnus Svensson on the touchline. The referee shook his head, pointing for a goal kick, much to the disdain of Diouf. There was contact, but certainly no intention by the Swedish midfielder.
Finally, on 37 minutes, Senegal caught a break. It was forward Henri Camara who grabbed the equalizing goal. The striker spent his career as a bit of a journeyman, playing for a staggering 16 clubs over a career that is still ongoing. Camara picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, shimmying past two Swedish players before sliding the ball low, through a number of defenders and under goalkeeper Magnus Hedman. He bamboozled Magnus Svensson, he wrongfooted Johan Mjallby and got the shot off before Andreas Jakobsson’s slide tackle could block the ball.
Senegal were back in the match, but Sweden were not rolling over easily. Linderoth hit a free kick with venom over the wall in the direction of the top corner. Tony Slyva not only kept the ball out, but managed to hold on to the ball.
Sweden kept the pressure on in the second half. Larsson crossed into the box from the left. The cross landed perfectly onto the head of Marcus Allback, who headed it down for the incoming Anders Svensson to fire over the bar.
Chance after chance befell both teams. Diouf saw his free kick agonizingly close to creeping in, only the fingertips of Magnus Hedman keeping it out. A little later, a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench. In one move, he made Ferdinand Coly fall down, sold Aliou Cisse a despicable dummy before unleashing a venomous strike low and hard, watching the goalkeeper push it out for a corner.
This game was a clash of the ages. Two sides fighting tooth and nail to progress. When the referee blew for 90 minutes, the neutrals were glad to see the game go on a little longer. In 2002, there was no guarantee the game would last an extra 30 minutes due to the Golden Goal rule. To our younger readers, the Golden Goal was used to decide knockout ties, whereby the first goal scored in extra time was the winning goal. Essentially an incredibly tension-ridden, drama filled version of the playground football shout “next goal winner”.
Sweden won the coin toss and elected to kick off, however that was all they won in extra time. Aston Villa’s Olof Mellberg launched the ball high into the box, Larsson headed it back into the danger zone (sorry if you have Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone stuck in your head now…) the ball bounced off the mêlée of bodies fighting for the ball in the box. The keeper rushed off his line to gather the ball, failed, and saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic flick it back across the box. Senegal were helpless, rushing around like headless chickens, desperately trying to clear the ball. Zlatan’s flick saw the ball back to Larsson. Larsson found a yellow jersey, but the shot deflected off the line. Senegal finally got a definitive touch on the ball, knocking it out of play, allowing themselves a moment to calm down.
The biggest disappointment of this game was that the goalpost denied what would have been arguably the greatest World Cup goal ever. Mellberg chipped the ball into the box, Henrik Larsson knocked it into the middle of the box first time. Ferdinand Coly got to the ball half a second before Ibrahimovic, knocking out to the middle of the box. Anders Svensson received the ball, faked a shot, fooling the onrushing defender, performed some sort of Cruyff turn before cannoning a shot off the woodwork. It is a shot which has been forgotten about through time, yet had that gone it, it would surely be perceived as one of the best.
Finally, a minute before half-time of extra time, Henri Camara struck again! Centre forward Pape Thiaw backheeled the ball to the onrushing Camara. Camara outmuscled substitute Mattias Jonson, shimmied past Mjallby before firing low into the bottom left corner. The ball struck the post and went in.
Camara went wild, tearing his shirt off in celebration. This was only the second time in World Cup history that an African side had reached the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup, since Roger Milla’s Cameroon endeavors in 1990. It was a truly remarkable game, neither side could begrudge the other of a win. It was an end to end affair with chances aplenty. And to finish off such a classic with a golden goal was a perfect end to a highly competitive affair. Sweden would be disappointed to bow out to Senegal, after qualifying top of a group with Argentina and England, especially as they had the might of Henrik Larsson, Freddy Ljungberg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their ranks. For Senegal, the celebrations were well earned, however, World Cup 2002 ended in disappointment for the West Africans.
After qualifying for the Quarter Finals, they saw their tournament end at the hands of Turkey. How? Through an Ilhan Mansiz Golden Goal. Both Senegal and Sweden delivered one of the most captivating games of the 2002 World Cup. How can the World Cup Calendar top this marvellous game? How about a nice 0-0. See tomorrow’s game!
Tomorrow’s game: June 17th. Brazil v Mexico. 2014.