FIFA U-20 World Cup: Senegal Suffers Shock Defeat to Japan

FIFA U-20 World Cup: Senegal Suffers Shock Defeat to Japan
Credit: Iconsport

The Young Lions of Senegal couldn't replicate their U20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) form in their first FIFA U-20 World Cup match, enduring a 1-0 loss against a skilful Japan side.

Senegal stepped into the game with first-choice goalkeeper Landing Badji injured, resulting in 17-year-old Mamour N’Diaye stepping in. All eyes were on Senegal’s main man, Pape Demba Diop, who had been the top goalscorer in qualifying. The Young Lions lined up in a 4-3-3 shape, compared to Japan's 4-4-2 formation.

There was somewhat of a clash of styles as Japan aimed to play short intricate passes through the lines, while Senegal displayed a more expansive passing style, including some long passes.

Japan scored what turned out to be the winning goal after just 15 minutes, although Senegal orchestrated their downfall. Malick Daf watched as his team failed to clear their lines after a cross was fizzed into the box. The Japanese recycled possession, and Kuyru Matsuki hit a lovely low drive from the edge of the area, leaving N’Diaye no chance.

Despite the disappointment of conceding, Daf will undoubtedly be pleased with his team's response. Senegal immediately switched to attack mode, and they believed they had equalised in the 21st minute when Souleymane Basse charged down the left wing and managed to deliver a low cross into the box. Captain Samba Diallo initially fluffed his lines, but the Young Lions caught a lucky break as the ball reached Souleymane Faye, who nudged it back into Diallo's path. Diallo made sure he didn't miss a second time. However, the goal was disallowed by VAR due to Faye being offside in the build-up.

Senegal continued to search for an equaliser and dominated possession, but Japan remained steadfast, preventing them from creating significant chances in the second half. As time progressed, the AFCON U20 champions began to panic and resorted to long balls and shots from outside the area. However, the Japanese goalkeeper remained untroubled.

Their best chance came in the 71st minute when ball-playing centre-back Seydou Sano played one of his trademark long passes from the halfway line, finding Mame Mor Faye as he ran behind the Japanese defence into the penalty area. Faye showed great composure to control the ball with his chest but then blazed the shot over the bar instead of simply placing it beyond the goalkeeper.

Interestingly, Malick Daf only made two substitutions, maybe indicating a lack of trust in his bench. In the 73rd minute, Libasse Ngom and Ibrahima Seck took to the field, replacing Mame Mor Faye and Samba Diallo, respectively. Japan altered their system to see out the game, which stifled Senegal's attack, and it soon became apparent that there was no equaliser on the horizon.

It was a tough first game for Senegal, and perhaps nerves got the better of them, but they possess plenty of quality within their squad and will aim to bounce back with a win against Israel.

This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago

Chandan is a passionate writer, editor, and marketer with a love for football. He has bylines in leading online publications and has worked with renowned sports brands like The Olympics, Fox Sports Asia, and the Indian Super League (ISL). As for the unimpressive part, he loves Chelsea.