SENEGAL’S Kalidou Koulibaly celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. — REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ

JOYOUS crowds celebrated in Senegal’s capital Dakar on Tuesday as cheers and car horns rang out in gridlocked streets after the West African country qualified to the knockout stage of the World Cup in Qatar with a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. 

“Immense! What a match! What players!” Senegal President Macky Sall said on Twitter. “Now go and touch the stars.”

 Thousands of fans sporting the green, yellow and red of Senegal’s flag had flocked to screens set up across the city.

“It is joy… We have done it,” screamed supporter Youssouf Niang. “It was so stressful after they equalized, but this is deliverance,” he exclaimed. 

A large crowd gathered under the African Renaissance Monument was nervously quiet until Ismaila Sarr scored a 44th-minute penalty that gave Senegal a 1-0 halftime lead against Ecuador.

Ecuador equalized through Moises Caicedo before Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly netted a second goal for the Lions of Teranga. 

Senegal has played in three World Cups including the current one and is one of five African teams taking part in Qatar. Manager Alioune Cisse also coached his country at the last World Cup in Russia, when they were eliminated at group stage against Japan on fair play points.

He also oversaw Senegal’s first Africa Cup of Nations victory in February this year, which set high expectations for the current World Cup. 

Senegal in 2002 became the second African team to qualify for a World Cup quarter finals after Cameroon in 1990. Ghana joined the club in 2010. No African team has yet reached semi finals. — Reuters