By Angus MacKinnon
Saturday 22 June 2002
Last Update 22 June 2002 12:00 am
OSAKA, Japan, 22 June — Senegal will make football history if they can beat Turkey in what promises to be a bitterly fought World Cup quarterfinal here today.
Victory would make Bruno Metsu’s made-in-France squad the first African side to reach the last four of the tournament and the verbal exchanges in the run-up to the match suggest they have a mighty battle on their hands if they are to realize that dream.
Metsu, a normally laid-back character, fired the first shot by accusing his opposite number, Senol Gunes, of denigrating his squad in comments which implied Turkey would have things all their own way.
Gunes denied that charge but fired his own broadside with a claim that the Africans had elbowed their way into the quarterfinals.
“It has been happening in every game. If you watch the videos you can see the opposition players going down after aerial challenges, some of them bleeding or with concussion.
“And the remarkable thing is that none of the referees has seemed to see that.”
Metsu brushed off Gunes’ comments as an attempt to influence Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz, who will have the task of controlling the match.
“All it shows is that they are afraid of our aerial power,” Metsu told AFP. “The referees are intelligent enough to know it is not true.”
Pele famously predicted that an African team would win sport’s biggest prize by the year 2000. But two years into the third millennium the continent is still waiting and, with the exception of Senegal, this has been another disappointing tournament for Africa.
African and Olympic champions Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia all fell at the first hurdle, leaving Metsu’s squad, who almost all play for French clubs, to fly the flag alone, a task made all the more important given Africa’s desire to host the tournament in 2010.
Henri Camara’s golden goal in the second round against Sweden enabled the Lions of Teranga to emulate the achievement of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions, who reached the last eight at Italia ’90 before succumbing to England.
Metsu insists that Turkey, with their wealth of players from top European clubs, will start as favorites.
“We have less experience than them. We know it will be tough but that does not mean we have to be afraid,” he said.
The Frenchman says his players are acutely aware that they are carrying the hopes of an entire continent on their shoulders.
“When Cameroon reached the same stage in 1990 the whole of Africa was behind them. It is the same for us and we will do our best to live up to those hopes.”
Turkey’s players have refused to get embroiled in a war of words over Metsu’s accusations of arrogance, which they have interpreted as an attempt by a shrewd coach to inject a little extra fire into his players’ bellies before the biggest match of their lives.
Umit Davala, Turkey’s goalscoring hero in the second round win over Japan, said the team knew they might never have a better chance to do so well in the World Cup in what is only their second appearance.
But he insisted they were not underestimating Senegal.
“We are playing in our first World Cup for 48 years,” he said. “It is very important for all of Turkey and we are pleased with what we have achieved but we want to go further and really give our people something to smile about.
“But before we do that we know that first we must beat Senegal. They are a team that run a lot and fight a lot. If we can fight like them then we can beat them.”
The Turks received a boost yesterday when captain Hakan Sukur and key defender Bulent Korkmaz were both declared fit for today but two of their midfielders are doubtful starters.
Blackburn’s Hakan Unsal, who has a knee injury, and Galatasaray’s Ergun Penbe, who is struggling with a hamstring problem, will have late fitness tests to assess whether they can start or play any part in the match.
Parma striker Sukur has been carrying a thigh strain throughout the tournament but it has yet to stop him playing while Korkmaz has recovered from a pulled hamstring.
Senegal will be at full strength for the encounter with Omar Daf and Ferdinand Coly over knee knocks, while Aliou Cisse and Malick Diop have recovered from minor calf and ankle strains.
The Senegalese will also benefit from having had an extra 48 hours resting time since their last match compared to the Turks, although Metsu has admitted in recent days that his squad have had problems recuperating from their efforts.
Turkey are scared of us,
Senegal coach Bruno Metsu says Turkey are running scared of his team after their coach Senol Gunes criticized the African side for being far too physical in aerial challenges.
“I think he is a bit scared of our aerial game — it’s true that we are taller and more strongly built than the Turks,” Metsu told reporters as the war of words between the two coaches raged on before today’s World Cup quarterfinal.
“He is just preparing the ground in advance by saying we commit fouls in the air. It’s a good war (of words), I understand, and it’s true we have plenty of big players.”
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Gunes said he had been studying Senegal’s undefeated progress through the tournament and had been alarmed by the force of their challenges.
“I have reached the conclusion that Senegalese players use their elbow first in high balls and I wanted to mention that because it is so clear,” Gunes said.
“I accept that football is a hard game but if you have a chance to view their videos you will see in every air challenge, it’s elbow first, it’s remarkable,” Gunes said.
“You can see many opposition players going down after high balls with concussion and bleeding. The interesting part is that none of the referees have seen it,” he said. The Turkish coach hinted that he hoped Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz would be on the watch for dangerous challenges.