Bruno Metsu: Football coach who inflicted World Cup humiliation on his native France
Wednesday 23 October 2013
Bruno Metsu, who died on 14 October at the age of 59, masterminded one of the football World Cup's greatest upsets. The Frenchman left millions of his compatriots shattered on 31 May 2002 when the reigning world champions slumped 1-0 in Seoul to his unfancied Senegal side in the opening match of the World Cup finals.
The defeat set France on course for a dismal group-stage exit, while Senegal – the "Lions of Teranga" – were spurred on a run to the quarter-finals, where they bowed out to Turkey, the joint best performance by an African side in World Cup finals history. "I am not the best coach in the world but after this perhaps I am not too bad," he said that night. "I am truly happy with this, it was a great victory and an important result."
Born in January 1954, Metsu had had a moderately successful playing career as an attacking midfielder, taking in a spell in Belgium with Anderlecht, and before taking on the challenge of coaching Senegal had had 13 years' experience with clubs including Lille and Sedan.
Instantly recognisable at the height of his career by his long mane of hair and sharp suits, he became coach of Senegal in 2000, when the team had just gone out to Nigeria in the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup. Quickly whipping them into shape, he led Senegal to its first Nations Cup final two years later in Mali. Although they lost to Cameroon on penalties, "the White Sorcerer", was given a red carpet reception with the squad when they arrived back in Dakar.
In the 2002 World Cup they were expected to prop up Group A beneath France, Denmark and Uruguay, but Metsu compiled a video demonstrating French weaknesses and the world champions did indeed put in a miserable display, Papa Dioup scoring the winning goal. Senegal went on to beat Sweden in the round of 16, becoming the first African side to reach the quarter-finals since Cameroon in 1990. Senegal were finally beaten in the quarter-finals by Turkey in extra time thanks to a golden goal from Ilhan Mansız.
Metsu converted from Christianity to Islam while in Senegal in order to marry a local Muslim woman, then spent the rest of his coaching career in the Middle East, taking charge of club sides including Al Ain and Al Ittihad, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar national teams. In July 2012 he became coach of Al Wasl in the UAE, replacing Diego Maradona, but resigned in October, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. He managed almost a full year but died at home in Dunkirk, having long been forgiven by the French.
The Senegal striker Souleymane Camara said of Metsu, "More than a coach, he was a big brother to us. What I liked about him above all was that when we needed to work, we worked, but when we needed to have fun, we had fun too."
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