Striker Famara Diedhiou scored hat-trick as Senegal sealed their place in the third knockout stage of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup with two games to spare following a 3-1 Group H victory over Namibia at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Namibia netted through their talisman Peter Shalulile in what was a feisty affair with both sides showing great determination and physicality to win the battle.
But Senegal’s victory takes them to 12 points in the pool and out of sight of their challengers, with no team able to catch them at the top of the group.
It means they advance to the final stage in March, where the 10 qualifiers will be paired and play-off over two home and away legs for a place at Qatar 2022.
Namibia can certainly be proud of their effort, they gave as good as they got against the west Africans, who are ranked the number one side on the continent and had a strong selection in neutral Johannesburg.
The game was played in South Africa with refurbishment work to bring the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek to the required CAF level ongoing.
Senegal’s opening goal on 21 minutes was all too easy from a Namibia point of view. No-one closed down Sadio Mane on the left flank and he picked out an unmarked Diedhiou just outside the six-yard box, who easily headed into the back of the net.
But Namibia were level just before the half-hour mark with a typically clinical finish from Shalulile.
He collected the ball on the edge of the box, side-stepped a defender and drilled low into the bottom corner of the net, giving Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy no chance.
The visitors almost took the lead again as Mane volleyed a shot goalwards, but Brave Warriors gloveman Lloyd Kazapua was up to the task and blocked the rasping effort.
Willy Stephanus forced an excellent save from Mendy near the close of the first half as his fierce free-kick from 35-yards looked to be arrowing into the net, but the teams went into the break all square.
Both sides made a bright start to the second half, but it was Senegal who went ahead on 51 minutes and again it was a goal that was simple in its construction.
Saliou Ciss delivered a cross from the left-wing and Diedhiou netted his second header as the Namibia defence failed to challenge him in the air.
And the hat-trick was complete with six minutes remaining when Mane’s low cross was met by Diedhiou at the back post and he had the simplest of tap-ins.
Senegal can now rest players in their final two qualification matches in November if they choose, though coach Aliou Cisse may wish to have his full squad together to build towards the Africa Cup of Nations that will be played in Cameroon from early January.
The Brave Warriors must travel away to face Congo-Brazzaville in their penultimate qualifier next month, before a home clash against Togo to complete the campaign.