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Konate making a big impression at Olympics

Senegal teenager is top scorer with four group stage goals

Image Credit: AP
Senegal’s Moussa Konate (right) battles for the ball againstthe UAE’s Abdul Aziz Sangour on Wednesday.
Gulf News

London: He is only 19, but don’t be surprised if Moussa Konate of Senegal walks away with the golden boot in the men’s football tournament at the London Olympic Games.

Konate has been the heart of almost every attack for the West African nation, who were the last to qualify for the Games thanks to their play-off victory over Oman at the City of Coventry Stadium earlier in the summer.

During the London Olympics, Senegal have unleashed a brilliant talent in 19-year-old striker Konate, who plays for club side Maccabi Tel Aviv. Four goals in Senegal’s three matches in Group A have more than made a man out of this teenager.

After hosts Great Britain had taken an early lead in their opener at Old Trafford last week, it was Konate who swooped with an 83rd-minute equaliser to earn his team a crucial point.

Two days later, Konate struck twice in the first half and then helped his ten-man side keep that cushion for a deserved 2-0 win over two-time gold medallists Uruguay. And then on Wednesday night, it was Konate again to the rescue for the Senegalese with an equaliser against minnows UAE to give the team five points and their first-ever appearance at an Olympics quarter-final.

“I agree it has been a great job by me so far, but I dedicate this success to my teammates, who keep on feeding me with passes so that I can score,” Konate told Gulf News after the 1-1 draw with the UAE.

“Scoring goals is a gift from above and I thank God for it. My coaches and teammates have always backed me and I feel obligated to return this faith in them.”

Konate could well be in a position to deal the killer blow here for the Africans as they attempt to go one better than their senior team’s quarter-final appearance at the 2002 Fifa World Cup in South Korea and Japan. They take on Mexico in the last eight at Wembley on Saturday.

“Every game has helped me gain more confidence,” he said. “But now we have come to a crucial stage where even a small mistake can be punished.

“I feel good and so happy to be the top scorer at the moment. But if I do not continue doing my job then the entire team could end up being disappointed. I do not want that to happen as I owe something to my teammates.

“Honestly, I did expect to have such an impact in the tournament. I only knew I had to score goals and now that I have the confidence I intend continuing so that we can go all the way.

“I hope we can go all the way against Mexico on Saturday. I know it will be tough, but we come here with a lot of confidence.”

Senegal’s assistant coach Aliou Cisse is effusive in his praise of the young striker, and would not be surprised if a big club comes knocking for his services.

“Moussa is only 19 and he already has four goals. I do hope one of the English clubs come and sign him. And it is not just Konate, but we have so much of talent in this Senegal team. But for sure, Konate deserves to a have a long and fruitful career,” Cisse said.