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Senegal Going to World Cup for First Time - 2002-04-23

This year's World Cup in South Korea and Japan marks the first time the West African nation of Senegal has made it to football's premier event. The so-called Lions of Terenga could surprise some fans - and their opponents.

Senegal's first World Cup appearance does not appear to have unsettled the West African team. African Coach of the Year Bruno Metsu's squad edged out 1998 World Cup finalist Morocco in qualifying for this year's tournament.

The Lions had five wins, four losses and one draw in the African qualifying, including a 1-0 win over Morocco and a 5-0 crushing of Namibia last July. International football commentator Derek Rae said that Senegal could provide some surprises in first round play.

"Quite a few people took note of their performance at the African Nations Cup, where they finished second behind Cameroon. I think that they have the potential to spring the odd surprise. Although you never know about teams that are coming into their first World Cup finals," Mr. Rae said.

The man responsible for nine of Senegal's goals - including three goals in a game - was Elhadji Diouf, who was given the African Football Confederation's player of the year award. Derek Rae said that Diouf is a force Senegal's first-round opponents will have to reckon with.

"The player whom everyone is talking about is Elhadji Diouf, who plays in France for Lens, who has had a tremendous season in the first division. And I think that they are the sort of team that a lot of neutrals [fans] will actually adopt and find quite charming," Mr. Rae said.

National loyalties are sure to be tested in Senegal's first match - against reigning world and European champion France May 31 in Seoul, South Korea. Then the Lions take on Denmark June sixth and their final first round match is against Uruguay June 11 in Suwon, South Korea.