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23rd July 2018

Disappointing Africa Out of the World Cup as Senegal Succumb to Yellow Cards Rule!

By David Hytner (29/06/18)

Disappointed that all the five African teams have been bundled out of Russia 2018 World Cup as last 16 seems impossible for the continent.

 

African pundits believe Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco need to go back to the drawing board to check where it all went wrong for them. And for CAF, the organising football body in Africa also needs to strategise in to improving competitions on the continent. (Photo: Goal that sent Senegal home after Colombia scored).

Yesterday, the last hope of Africa Senegal went out of the world after losing 0-1 to Colombia and mostly uniquely due to the yellow cards rule. Colombia's Yerry Mina scored the only goal of the game against Senegal.

José Pekerman considered the prospect of a last‑16 collision with England and described it as a “full-on to the death match”. The manager and his Colombia team will play it in Moscow on Tuesday after emerging from a shoot-out against Senegal and in a group that twisted dramatically at the last.

Colombia had needed to defeat Africa’s last remaining representative to make sure of their qualification – even though a draw would have sufficed because of Poland’s surprise 1-0 win over Japan – and they did so thanks to Yerry Mina’s towering 74th‑minute header from Juan Quintero’s corner. It was the moment for which Colombia had prayed and when it came the release of emotion was overwhelming.

The result, coupled with that in the other Group H tie, meant Colombia advanced as the winners of the section and the delight was evident with all of Pekerman’s players, who performed a team dance routine after the goal. Up in the stands, the country’s legendary former midfielder Carlos Valderrama led the celebrations.

It was a tempestuous occasion, framed by noise and colour, but the on-field spectacle failed to keep up. There was minimal goalmouth action, with Colombia mustering only two efforts on target. Senegal had three. But the outcome was all that mattered to Los Cafeteros, who had to contend with the loss of their marquee player, James Rodríguez, to injury after 31 minutes.

Pekerman was unclear whether Rodríguez, who had carried a calf problem to this tournament, would be able to play against England and he declared himself to be “extremely concerned”. He added: “It’s a topic that could overshadow everything. It’s a tough situation for my team.”

Poor Senegal. They controlled the first half and their performance was framed by sound tactics, organisation and aggressive pressing – together with speed on the counterattack. On the other hand they laboured to create clear-cut chances, messing up a clutch of promising situations.

The roof fell in on them after Mina’s goal and in the end they were squeezed into third place and out of the competition on yellow cards accumulated, having finished level with Japan on points, goal difference and goals scored. Two bookings was the difference.

Senegal had been determined to emulate their only previous showing at a World Cup – the quarter-final finish from 2002. Instead, they would make an unwanted piece of history. They are the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup on fair play criteria.

The stadium was swathed in bright yellow throughout – it was a Colombian takeover – and the din was deafening from first to last, although there was a gasp and silence on 17 minutes, when Senegal thought they had a penalty.

The referee, Milorad Mazic, pointed to the spot after Davinson Sánchez jumped into a challenge on Sadio Mané, even if the decision looked harsh in real time. Enter VAR and it became apparent that although the Colombia defender might have brushed Mané’s shin first, he clearly took the ball. To the relief of the South Americans, the referee reversed the ruling.

Aliou Cissé had started with Mané up front alongside the powerful and direct Mbaye Niang in a 4-4-2 and the movement of both strikers caused problems. Mané looked to have the beating of his markers, especially Mina, and it was an uncomfortable first-half for Colombia, although Senegal failed to work the goalkeeper, David Ospina.

Colombia could point to a 12th‑minute free-kick from Quintero that bounced awkwardly in front of Khadim Ndiaye, forcing the goalkeeper to push it around a post, but they were disjointed for long periods.

Poland have been one of the disappointments of the World Cup and yet there was a crescendo of noise from the Colombia support around the hour mark, when news of the Polish goal against Japan filtered through. Suddenly Colombia were in a position to qualify, although to rely on the Poles was not a sound idea. At that stage, Senegal were primed to finish on top of the group.

Pekerman’s players were more assertive in the second half and began to gain a foothold higher up the pitch. Rodríguez’s replacement, Luis Muriel, saw a shot blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly and he was beaten to a through ball by the advancing Ndiaye before Mina got away from Cheikhou Kouyaté to score.

Senegal stared at disaster and they rallied. Niang rolled Mina and shot only for Ospina to save strongly – it was a big moment – and the goalkeeper also got down to stop a corner that deflected off Mina. Ismaila Sarr also fluffed a volley when well-placed.

The pain would belong to Senegal. For Colombia, England await. “They can have a good day or a better day,” Pekerman added. “England is a young team with harmony, confidence and excellent individual players. They have what it takes but we are also very confident.”

Courtesy: David Hytner at the Samara Arena

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


1958 -1980

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