By: Foday Manneh
The Gambia booked their place in the knockout stages of the U20 FIFA World Cup following their second successive win in Argentina.
The young Scorpions beat 2013 champions, France 2-1, thanks to an own goal from Zoukrou and a hard-fought winner by Bayern Munich wonder-kid Mamin Sanyang.
The AFCON silver medalists started their game with little or no pressure, controlling most of the balls in the middle of the pitch under the commands of Mahmudu Bajo, Muhammed Jobe, and Rashid Njie. A trio that uses their physique alongside Ebrima Singhateh to frustrate young Les Blues.
In the 13th minute of the match, Adama Bojang received the ball from the close area, attempting to get the finish, but French defender Zoukrou wrongly took his effort into his own to give the Gambia a 1-0 lead.
France regained confidence from a few chances seeking an equalizer, one of which was closely punched out by returning goalkeeper Pa Ebou Dampha to deny captain Virginius.
Adama Bojang had the chance to double his team’s lead in the 27 minutes after receiving a through ball from Muhammed Jobe, but his mishandled steps offered the opponent’s goalkeeper to win on the 1v1 chance.
Both teams pushed before the break, but it ended 1-0, and again, just like their first match, the young Scorpions suffered another apparent injury blow as striker Ebrima Singhateh was subbed off in tears for what looked like leg trouble just minutes into halftime.
At the resumption, Mamin Sanyang entered his proper involvement in the match to replace Singhateh. The Bayern Munich youth player added much intensity to the game with his pace and dribbling skills serving as enforcement to Adama Bojang in the front line.
With the consistency of their performance in the game, the Gambia won a penalty from full-back Bakary Jawara’s foul in the area. However, the French goalkeeper caught captain Alagie Saine’s spot kick in the right place to keep the score.
This missed seemingly looked like a punishment for the Gambia three minutes later as France came to level terms in the match thanks to a header from Odobert, which went into a helpless net.
The French equalizer lasted seven minutes before Mamin Sanyang forced his way into the six-yard box from Haruna Rashid Njie’s pass to slot the ball in the bottom left corner. The goal was Mamin’s first in Gambian colors and the winner against France.
The 2-1 win is the Gambia’s second successive group stage victory in the tournament, which has guaranteed their place in the knockout stages as the second African nation to reach the last 16 after Nigeria. The young Scorpions have a game to spare in the Sunday group stage against South Korea.
The Gambia will go into their last group game without key midfielder Haruna Rashid Njie, who has been on “misses next match” having a few injuries in the books, such as Moses Jarju, who is out on muscle tear with Ebrima Singhateh and Dembo Saidykhan also doubts for apparent injuries.