Ismaila Sarr Senegal's 'X-Factor' for World Cup last 16 clash vs England as winger swaps Championship for biggest stage | The Sun

ISMAILA SARR has come a long way in less than three weeks.

On November 12 he played 35 minutes of a goalless draw for Watford in a Championship match at Bristol City.

It is 4,250 miles from Ashton Gate to Doha – via the A3. But Sarr’s journey is more than geographical.

He is now being hailed as the "X-Factor" for Senegal ahead of Sunday’s World Cup shootout against England.

A winger with devastating acceleration, he boasts more than 100 games in English football to his name.

Considered by some the fastest player in the second tier, it was his impressive pace that put the skids under Ecuador on Tuesday evening and led to Senegal qualifying for the World Cup’s last 16.


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Wiped out in the penalty box by a clumsy tackle, he then got up and kept his nerve to score from the spot without taking his eyes off Ecuador keeper Hernan Galindez.

That was as much a surprise to Watford fans as anyone else because Sarr has missed his last three spot kicks for The Hornets.

Two in one game in fact at Manchester United in what turned out to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s final game as manager.

The most recent came at West Brom this season when he did score from 60 yards out in open play as one of his six goals this season despite an erratic nature.

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Even so, that hasn’t stopped experienced Senegal midfielder Idrissa Gueye from pointing to Sarr as the main weapon the African champions will call on in their uphill battle to overturn England.

Gueye, 33, said: “He can be the X-Factor, the kind of player who takes on players and makes the difference. He is playing really well.

“He was really good for us against Ecuador. If he plays at that level he can be even better, he just has to work hard and keep going, believe in himself.

“He can be a leader. He can’t be scared because we have the midfielders behind him to compensate and recover the ball.

"He can focus on attacking. We need him to do this and play these kind of games.”

Gueye is banned from Sunday’s knockout match but reckons he will still get to play at the World Cup this year – in the quarter finals.

He said: “I’m really disappointed but I’m happy for the team. I’m just hoping they can do the job and I can play in the quarter-finals.

“We keep saying in training and all the time that we need the whole squad and we can only do this altogether in this kind of competition.

"We have a big experience in the African Cup of Nations and, in that sort of competition, you need everybody, not just 11 or 12.

“It is 26 players and everybody has to be committed. The subs have to work hard in training to be ready in case the manager calls them in.

"I congratulated the whole squad because they were all like that.”

Chelsea defender and stand-in skipper Kalidou Koulibaly is also already thinking further into the competition and warned England they will be up against the entire country – not just the football team.

He said: “Everything binds us together. We are a family, we stick together all the time.

"We stick together as a team. We have to play as a team otherwise we cannot go forwards.

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“The most important thing is that everybody is respectful and they know that they play for 70m Senegalese people.

"When you wear this shirt you have to be good, respectful for this and respectful for all the country and everybody knows that when they come into this team the only rule is that you have to sweat for this shirt and be proud to be Senegalese.”

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