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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Cool Koulibaly with the winner to send Senegal to last 16

Senegal defeated Ecuador 2-1 in a thrilling match to advance to the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup (WC), marking their first win over a South American team.

A point from Ecuador would be sufficient to advance to the round of 16. However, it came as a surprise to some that they lagged behind in the first half. Senegal, which realistically needed to win to advance, got off to a strong start and came within three minutes of opening the scoring when Idrissa Gueye's shot from inside the box barely missed the right post after a fluid move.Senegal even came closer five minutes later when Boulaye Dia's shot went just wide of the left post.

In the first half, Senegal's Ismaïla Sarr was a persistent threat along the left flank. The Watford winger gave his team a penalty when he broke into the area and Piero Hincapié took him down. He showed great poise to step up and roll the ball into the right corner to make it 1-0 even though qualification might have been on the line.

Even though they were down by a goal, Ecuador knew they only needed one goal to take the lead back. And despite battling for the majority of the second half, they eventually came up with a solution. The pendulum swung back in favor of La Tri in the 67th minute when Félix Torres headed a corner into the path of an unmarked Moisés Caicedo, who redirected it in from close range. Two minutes later, though, Kalidou Koulibaly received a free kick inside the area from Senegal, and the captain blasted it home to give Senegal the lead once again. This rapidly transformed their joy into disappointment.

Senegal hung on to go to the knockout rounds for the first time since the 2002 competition in Korea and Japan, despite unrelenting efforts from Ecuador, who were battling for their World Cup survival.

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