During their first ever FIFA World Cup ™ finals campaign in 2002, Senegal sent shockwaves through Africa by reaching the quarter-finals, thus emulating the achievements of Cameroon's Indomitable Lions on their debut appearance back in 1990.
The west African side claimed an improbable victory in their opening match with a 1-0 win over reigning champions France, before going on to draw 1-1 with Denmark and 3-3 with Uruguay. Their inspirational form continued in the second round, where they knocked out Sweden 2-1 with a golden goal. Despite being eliminated 1-0 by Turkey in the quarter-finals, also by a golden goal, Senegal thus proved their international credentials and wrote themselves into the history books in the process.
At the start of that prolific year, Senegal also achieved their best ever finish in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. The Lions of Teranga rampaged all the way to the final before losing 3-2 on penalties to Cameroon, the match having ended goalless after extra time.
However, after notching up a respectable last-eight finish in the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, Senegal then missed out on the 2006 FIFA World Cup following a 3-1 qualifying defeat by Togo, the eventual winners of their preliminary group. But despite saying goodbye to stars such El-Hadji Diouf and Khalilou Fadiga, the latter for health reasons, the Lions of Teranga believe their golden age is still far from over.
To inject fresh impetus, the Senegal Football Association handed new coach Henryk Kasperczak a double mission. First, to qualify for the CAN 2008 in Ghana and bring home the trophy for the first time in the nation's history, a feat beyond the capabilities of former greats including Jules Bocande, Saar Boubacar, Roger Mendy and Amara Traore.
And although the first objective was achieved without too much fuss, the second proved well beyond them. After their opening two games the Senegalese were as good as out of the tournament, a situation that resulted in Kasperczak's instant resignation. The Lions salvaged some pride with a final draw against South Africa but it was not enough to prevent their early exit.
Senegal stamped their authority on the qualifying campaign and finished on a high in the last match, in which they hammered Burkina Faso 5-1. But in the finals in Ghana, Kasperczak quit midway through after an embarrassing defeat to Angola, which ultimately resulted in early elimination.
Senegal have since sought to overhaul the infrastructure of their FA as they await a tough South Africa 2010 qualifying group with Algeria, as well as the Gambia and Liberia.
Senegal will need to draw on all their reserves of pride if they are to negotiate the rocky road to the finals. On the positive side they can call on a solid core of seasoned performers such as Lamine Diatta, Papa Bouba Diop, Mamadou Niang, Henri Camara, Ferdinand Coly, Aliou Cisse, Salif Diao and Tony Sylva, not to mention a promising new generation that includes the likes of Pape Malickou Diakhate, Rahmane Barry, Issa Ba, Frederic Mendy and Babacar Gueye.