Twenty years after he led Senegal out of World Cup group stage as captain, Aliou Cisse does it again – as a coach

A whirl of dreadlocks slumped to the ground because the referee blew his whistle one final time for the evening. Coach Aliou Cisse felt a wave of aid undergo him after his Senegal staff galloped into the Spherical-of-16, just for the second time within the historical past of their nation. A late winner by defender Kalidou Koulibaly earned the nation a valuable win over Ecuador and a knockout stage showdown towards England on the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

For Cisse although, the return to the knockout phases was a spot he remembers all too effectively. He has repeated a feat he had conjured as soon as earlier a few a long time again – solely that point he was the captain, and his staff had simply knocked out the then defending champions of the world, France.

Hint Aliou Cisse’s profession and also you see the markings of a person that’s outlined by his failures. He didn’t win the 2002 African Cup of Nations towards Cameroon as a participant after lacking a penalty, as captain. When that incident occurred, he informed a pal that if not as a participant, he would make it his life’s mission to win an African Cup of Nations for his nation Senegal as a coach.

A number of months after that proclamation, Senegal would defeat World Champions France within the 2002 World Cup and knock them out of Seoul. A few a long time later, Cisse would coach Senegal to their first ever African Nations Cup win when a Sadio Mane-led staff beat a Mohammed Salah-led Egypt in Cameroon.

Even this World Cup marketing campaign comes with its personal promise of exorcising trauma. On the 2018 version, Cisse’s Senegal turned the primary ever staff in World Cup historical past to be ousted from the match’s group stage on honest play tiebreaker guidelines. This occurred after they have been stage on factors with Japan, however exited the match due to the next variety of yellow playing cards. This time although, Senegal made positive no such rule would dictate their destiny.

Their reward for a profitable group stage? A showdown towards Gareth Southgate’s England.

Senegal’s head coach Aliou Cisse provides instructions to his gamers throughout the World Cup group A soccer match between Ecuador and Senegal, on the Khalifa Worldwide Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photograph/Themba Hadebe)

Cisse, often called ‘El Tactico’ attributable to his dictat of taking a much more measured method on the pitch, spoke to the New York Instances earlier than the World Cup and maintained that his staff was no lesser than others.

“Once I take a look at my midfielders, my defenders, my goalkeeper, I’ve nothing to envy to, say, France or Spain. Kalidou Koulibaly is as priceless as Marquinhos for Brazil or John Stones for England. Hugo Lloris isn’t higher than Édouard Mendy. That’s the form of confidence I need my gamers to have. I need them to inform themselves that if France can win, why not us?”

France and Cisse have had a particular connection. On the age of 14, the midfielder moved to Lille’s youth academy. He continued to develop as a footballer in France, enjoying for French golf equipment like CS Sedan Ardennes and Paris Saint Germain within the late 90s. Beating the French nationwide staff catapulted Cisse into the English Premier League the place he performed for Birmingham Metropolis and received despatched off on his debut towards Arsenal.

Senegal’s head coach Aliou Cisse directs his gamers throughout the World Cup group A soccer match between Ecuador and Senegal, on the Khalifa Worldwide Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photograph/Natacha Pisarenko)

After his enjoying profession ended, Cisse moved up the teaching ranks. His first actual stint with Senegal started when he took over the U23 staff in 2012 after which graduated to the primary staff in 2015. Senegal’s fixed turnover of coaches was one which ended together with his appointment.

“From 2002 to 2015, not one coach stayed for greater than two years in Senegal. How do you wish to accomplish something? It’s unattainable, and our leaders needed to perceive it. They did with me. Once I took over the staff in 2015, folks have been asking: ‘Why are you giving him the staff? He has no expertise.’ However I knew the expectations and the truth of this nationwide staff,” stated Cisse to NYT.

Strict taskmaster

One of many key modifications Cisse applied at Senegal was to ensure all his gamers from totally different European golf equipment would arrive on the similar time and acclimatise to their residence nation. There can be time for consuming and ingesting their native meals however soccer at all times got here first.

He additionally turned profitable in integrating the locals, gamers who have been part of Senegal’s league or performed in Africa, with binationals, gamers who can be plying their commerce in Europe and would solely come again residence for worldwide obligation – as he as soon as was once.

The consequence – a staff that had gone three consecutive World Cups with out qualifying and poor African Nations Cup outcomes, made a turnaround. Since 2015, Senegal have made it to the quarter-finals, Finals after which received the largest African match. They’ve certified for 2 World Cups regardless of Africa solely getting 5 spots in a 32-team format.

However most significantly, Cisse has a era of footballers who imagine in him and his methods. Most of them got here up with him and owe their nationwide profession’s flying to him.

Most of them have been a part of the highs and lows which have come within the earlier seven years. Gamers like Sane, Koulibaly and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy play at high European golf equipment and are emboldened by Cisse’s perception that this staff operates at a excessive stage – excessive sufficient to knock some high European groups off their perch – simply as he did as soon as upon a time.

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