Senegal pay with cruel exit after squandering strong start

Reuters , Friday 29 Jun 2018,
Colombia's Yerry Mina, Senegal's Diafra Sakho and team mates react after the match. REUTERS

Senegal's accumulation of more yellow cards than group rivals Japan made them the first country to be eliminated by the fair play regulations but they must take the blame for their World Cup failure after allowing a strong position to slip.

Senegal were bundled out on the last day of the group phase in Russia after a count back of cautions after finishing level with Japan in Group H.

They had made a bright start to the tournament by beating Poland in Moscow but then flattered to decisive with talisman Sadio Mane largely anonymous and highly rated defender Kalidou Koulibaly caught out when he was most needed.

Liverpool's Mane managed a goal but looked worn out at the end of a dramatic club season.

Koulibaly's imposing physique and usually reliable positional awareness have made him a top defender in Europe, but he was caught out when Japan got a late equaliser in the 2-2 draw in Yakaterinburg and again for Colombia’s second half winner in Samara on Thursday.

It came from a set piece, which had been Senegal’s strength in the qualifiers but where they looked decidedly poor in Russia -- both in the taking of them and defending them.

They were also decidedly uninspiring in Thursday's defeat in Samara, lacking a distinct quality in the final third despite selecting a more attacking line-up.

They needed only a draw in their final group game to advance but they let a healthy situation slip to end level with Japan on four points from three games, with the same goal difference and number of goals scored.

Japan had the better disciplinary record and so took second spot behind Colombia to advance to the next stage in a bitter blow to Senegal, and African football in general.

Coach Aliou Cisse surprised with some of his team selections, including initially leaving out midfield general Cheikhou Kouyate, who captained Senegal in all their qualifying matches, and picking journeyman Khadim Ndiaye in goal.

It gave the impression of sudden doubt about his team’s capabilities despite suffering only one loss in their last 27 matches before the World Cup finals.

(For more sports news and updates and a special World Cup 2018 coverage, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)

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