Unfortunately for them, they came up against a goalkeeper in inspirational form, Al Seyni N’Diaye pulling off save after remarkable save in a game the Africans ended up snatching 6-5 to revive their hopes of reaching the next phase. Yet just how many times were the Lusitanians denied by N’Diaye? “When the game finishes, I can’t remember any of the saves I’ve made,” he told FIFA.com.
According to the official match statistics, coach Mario Narciso’s Portugal fired 23 shots on target, five of which ended in the back of the net, handing N’Diaye an impressive tally of 18 saves. And though understandably unable to recall each stop in an encounter he was called upon so many times, at least one does stand out: a penalty from Be four minutes into the third period, with the scores level at 4-4 and a packed Espinho Stadium willing Portugal to regain the lead.
I talk to the [younger] lads all the time in the hotel. I knew that we were capable of getting payback [against Portugal].
Al Seyni N'Diaye, Senegal goalkeeper.
“I can remember that one better, because it was a penalty and it was a key moment for us, confidence-wise. The mental side is so important for a young team like ours,” explained N’Diaye, referring to the fact that, with an average age of just over 24, the Senegalese have the youngest squad of all 16 participating nations, in addition to six players making their Beach Soccer World Cup debuts.
“I talk to the [younger] lads all the time in the hotel,” he added. “I’m only 25, but this is already my fifth World Cup. I was there when we beat another host nation, France, in 2008, and also in 2011, when Portugal knocked us out on penalties in the quarter-finals. I knew that we were capable of getting payback, and I wanted the other lads to believe it too. That’s why the result didn’t surprise us, not in the least.”
What might, indeed, come as a surprise for N’Diaye will be the moment he sits down to look at the match video and sees just how many top-drawer saves he pulled off. “It’s only now that everything that I put to the back of my mind is starting to come back to me,” he said, on his part in a win that put Senegal second in Group A – a section in which all four sides are level on three points after two games. “Even so, at this point what I did no longer matters: what counts now is the decisive game against Japan.”