World Cup Moments – 2002: El Hadji Diouf gets Liverpool’s hopes up!

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Signed by Liverpool just a day after the start of the tournament, El Hadji Diouf’s displays for Senegal in Japan and South Korea looked as though the Reds had a real gem on their hands. How wrong we were, writes Henry Jackson.

The Tournament

The showcase event, hosted by Japan and South Korea, was won by Brazil; their fifth triumph in the competition’s history. They saw off a stubborn Germany side in the final, with Golden Boot winner Ronaldo scoring twice for the Selecao.

Liverpool had one representative in the final in the form of Didi Hamann. The then 28-year-old tried in vain, but without his influential midfield partner Michael Ballack alongside him- he picked up a yellow card in the semi-final win over South Korea, meaning he was suspended for the final- Germany struggled.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England side had to make do without the emerging and increasingly important Steven Gerrard because of injury, while fellow Red Danny Murphy also missed out for the same reason.

A 1-0 win over Argentina, sandwiched by two draws against Sweden and Nigeria, was enough to see the Three Lions progress to the last-16, where they faced Denmark. Liverpool duo Michael Owen and Emile Heskey were among the scorers in a 3-0 win.

Although Owen’s opener against Brazil in the quarter-finals had England fans in dreamland, goals from Rivaldo and Ronaldinho turned the game on its head. England never recovered, and were sent packing.

Diouf inspires Senegal

El Hadji Diouf signed for Liverpool on 1st June 2002 for £10m from Lens, one day after the opening match of the tournament. His performance in that game, against world champions France, certainly had Reds fans across the globe excited.

France were the clear favourites to win the opening match against Les Lions de la Teranga, but Diouf in particular, had other ideas. The young striker’s pace and trickery caused Roger Lemerre’s side all sorts of problems from start to finish, and he provided Papa Bouba Diop with the game’s only goal after a typically speedy burst down the left wing.

http://youtu.be/JigE4eC7XeI

He impressed in the remaining group games too, against Denmark and Uruguay, as Senegal progressed to the second round at the expense of Uruguay and France.

They overcame Sweden 2-1 in that match to reach the quarter-finals against Turkey, where Ilhan Mansiz’s golden goal finally ended their superb journey in the competition.

Diouf, just 21 at the time, was rewarded for some superb performances by being named in FIFA’s All-Star Team of the tournament.

Much was expected of Diouf at Anfield following his summer exploits, especially after he scored twice on his home debut in a 3-0 win over Southampton. In truth, his Liverpool career ended up being a huge disappointment, however.

He managed just 6 goals in his 80 appearances for the club, and he was so ineffective as a striker that he was shifted to a right wing role by then manager Gerard Houllier.

In hindsight, Houllier should have signed Nicolas Anelka on a permanent deal instead of Diouf- the Frenchman had impressed on loan during the 2001/02 campaign- and it was proof that one good World Cup does not guarantee a successful signing.

The less said about his Senegal teammate Salif Diao, who joined Liverpool after the tournament had finished, the better.

Previous World Cup Moments:

Other LFC Players Present at the 2002 World Cup

Jerzy Dudek (Poland)- Eliminated in the group stages 

Abel Xavier (Portugal)- Eliminated in the group stages

What’s your favourite World Cup memory involving a Liverpool player? Let us know in the comments section below.

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