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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Senegal's rising star
Diouf evades Leboeuf's challenge during his team's 1-0 win over France
France struggled to cope with the energetic Diouf

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It did not take long for El Hadji Diouf to make his mark on the 2002 World Cup finals.

Just six minutes had elapsed of Senegal's match with France when Diouf skipped past Marcel 'The Rock' Desailly - and left the World Cup winner floundering on his backside.

The 21-year-old Senegalese striker caused chaos with his blistering pace and mazy runs, exposing the fraile French defence and setting up the winning goal.

And if many in the footballing world had not heard of him before the 1-0 win over France, they will surely know who he is now.

For those who have been following the fortunes of Diouf - and the Senegal team - the shock win over the defending champions will not be so surprising.

Diouf is the African Footballer of the Year and the spearhead of a Senegal team that is making a habit of upsetting the odds.

A superstar in Africa and a recognised face in France, where he currently plays his club football, Diouf now seems set to establish himself on a global scale.

He has shed his bad-boy image and is rapidly maturing into a footballer of genuine class.

Diouf top scored as Senegal recovered from an awful start to their World Cup qualifying campaign to overcome Namibia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco to reach the finals.

Diouf has been strongly linked with Liverpool
Diouf is confident he will impress during the World Cup

The 21-year-old scored eight of his team's 14 goals during qualifying to underline his importance to the Dakar Lions - including two hat-tricks.

Diouf's all-round game has developed rapidly over the last two years - since Bruno Metsu took over as Senegal coach in November 2000.

He has genuine pace, is a good header of the ball and has worked hard to develop the previously weak side of his game - bringing others into play.

But what really catches the eye about Diouf's game is his ability with the ball at his feet.

He is a natural showman, the darling of the fans back in his native Dakar and known for his fancy footwork.

But Diouf's rise from obscurity with French club Socheaux - who he joined as a teenager in 1998 - to African Footballer of the Year has not been smooth.

He struggled to make an impact after signing for Socheaux and moved to Rennes in 1999.

Bruno Metsu has revitalised Senegal since taking over in November 2000
Metsu has inspired Senegal - and Diouf
Again, though, Diouf struggled - both on and off the pitch.

It was during this phase that the striker developed something of a bad boy image.

He had an unfortunate habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and had several skirmishes with the law.

But a loan spell at Lens proved a success, his move was made permanent and he was a regular in the team that finished second in the recently completed French championship.

Despite excelling during his team's World Cup qualifying campaign he was strangely quiet during the African Nation's Cup.

He scored just once and missed a penalty in the shoot-out against Cameroon in the final.

Diouf was determined to atone for his lacklustre showing in Mali - and impress in Korea and Japan.

And on the evidence of his performance against France there are few who would bet against him doing so.


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DENMARK 3 +3 7
SENEGAL 3 +1 5
URUGUAY 3 -1 2
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