SAMARA, Russia (AP) Senegal and Colombia are keeping it loose at the World Cup while remaining focused on the goal.
Both teams are comfortable showing emotion, and there should be plenty when they meet Thursday in a decisive final group stage match in Samara.
Senegal, with its big following of jubilant fans, grabbed attention earlier in their tournament with a synchronized dance during warm-ups. It’s a ritual for the Senegalese team which hasn’t been to the World Cup since 2002. The warm-up dance was one of the viral moments of the World Cup so far on social media.
”This is our culture, you see? Joy, peace, hospitality. And, you know, happiness,” said Senegal coach Aliou Cisse. ”You may dance and be happy in life and still be serious on the pitch. This is what we do.”
Defender Kalidou Koulibaly said the team loves to dance before major matches.
”It is something that is in our blood, in our culture,” Koulibaly said.
Senegal and Japan lead Group H with four points each. Colombia has three points and could advance if it beats Senegal, and both could go through with a draw if Japan loses. Poland has been eliminated.
Cisse was captain of the Senegal team at the 2002 World Cup that upset defending champion France in the group stage advancing though to the quarterfinals before falling to Turkey.
The Lions are the lone African team still alive for the knockout round at the World Cup.
”We know we have the Senegalese people and the African continent behind us, so we have to do our best to end this with flying colors. We will try our utmost to get to the round of 16,” Koulibaly said.
Colombia has also been accompanied to Russia by throngs of adoring fans who have grabbed attention with their exuberance. And just like the team that went to the quarterfinals at the World Cup four years ago, Los Cafeteros are known for their dancing.
Videos spread on social media of the Colombians practicing the dance to ”Seko Seka” by the artist Alex Pichi. It is a musical style that is popular in Colombia and Peru.
The team beat Poland 3-0 last Sunday in Kazan to stay in contention. The players broke into the dance following Juan Cuadrado’s final goal in the 75th minute.
Yerry Mina, who also scored in the match, is well known for his smooth moves both for the national team and Barcelona. He has asked fans to submit dance videos to his favorite song to raise funds to build a soccer field in his hometown of Guachene.
The Colombians’ spirited goal celebrations, which they practice, first grabbed attention in Brazil. And there was lots of dancing to be had: Las Cafeteros advanced to the quarterfinals before falling 2-1 to the hosts. It was the furthest the nation had advanced in soccer’s premier tournament.
While they’re staying loose, Colombia knows it still got work to do in Russia.
”We have to enjoy it,” Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez said. ”Besides being a supremely tough profession, our job has an extra moment of difficulty because of the minimum details that can expose us. But the coach gives us the message that we should try to enjoy our work with responsibility. We need to try to understand that soccer gives you things if you do it with passion and love. Each of us is going to give it our best on the field.”
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