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FIFA Salutes Senegal - 2002-12-19

Senegal's national soccer team is earning more honors after it became the second African team in history to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals.

"The Lions of Teranga" from Senegal have been named the most improved team, or biggest mover, by the International Football Federation, FIFA. FIFA says the Senegalese climbed 38 places, to 27th overall, in the year end rankings for 2002.

Senegal surprised many football fans, including Brazilian great Pele, in reaching the final eight at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Before soccer's premier tournament kicked off, at the World Cup draw, Pele declared Senegal the weakest team in the 32-nation field.

But "The Lions of Teranga" proved Pele and others wrong. In the World Cup's opening match in Seoul, Senegal upset defending champion France, 1-0, in a much deserved result. In the round of 16, the Senegalese scored a 2-1 victory over a Swedish team that topped perhaps the World Cup's toughest group, one that included Argentina, England and Nigeria.

Senegal's stunning run at the World Cup, in its debut no less, came to an end when it lost in extra time to Turkey in Osaka, Japan. FIFA says its Biggest Mover Award is based on a number of factors, including the number of goals scored, whether the victory or defeat was home or away, and the status of a match. For instance, a World Cup victory is worth more ranking points than a win in a friendly. "The Lions of Teranga" from Senegal definitely proved their worth in 2002.