Kalidou Koulibaly’s nerveless volley sent Senegal into the World Cup’s knockout stages for only the second time in their history as they eliminated Ecuador at a rowdy Khalifa International Stadium.
All three goals came from players based in England as Ecuador’s Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo cancelled out a penalty by Watford’s Ismaila Sarr before Chelsea defender Koulibaly’s side-footer won it.
Ecuador needed just a point to progress but paid the price for a passive display as Senegal were spurred on by an almost non-stop cacophony of drumming from their supporters in Al Rayyan.
Watford winger Sarr coolly stroked home from the spot, after being clumsily upended by Ecuador defender Piero Hincapie, to put the African champions deservedly ahead.
Ecuador levelled with their first real chance as Caicedo swept home Felix Torres’ flick-on but Koulibaly’s composed finish immediately regained the lead for Senegal, who knew only victory would be enough to go through barring an unlikely Qatar upset against the Netherlands.
They held out amid a nervy six minutes of stoppage time to finish as runners-up in Group A behind the Dutch, who clinched top spot by handing the tournament hosts a third defeat in three games with a comfortable 2-0 win in Al Khor.
Aliou Cisse’s side are last-16 opponents for England given the Lions of Teranga will next face the winners of Group B – Gary Southgate’s Three Lions.
Much has been made of the absence of Senegal talisman Sadio Mane from this tournament through injury but they have found goals from elsewhere, their five thus far in Qatar all coming from different players.
They found swathes of space in and around the Ecuador area early on as the South Americans began nervily but Everton’s Idrissa Gueye and Boulaye Dia both dragged excellent opportunities wide.
But Sarr, who had missed his two previous penalties for his club, showed composure from the spot to slot his side in front and their heads did not drop even when Caicedo levelled from a corner.
Victory secured a first last-16 appearance since 2002, when they shocked France in the opening game on their way to the quarter-finals and, before the game, Senegal dedicated their efforts to former Fulham and Portsmouth midfielder Papa Bouba Diop – scorer of the famous winner against the French – who died in 2020 aged 42.
They will, however, be without influential midfielder Gueye, who will miss the second round – and what would have been his 100th cap – after he picked up a second yellow card of the tournament.