Idrissa Gana Gueye is comforted by a teammate.
Idrissa Gana Gueye is comforted by a teammate.

Heartbreaking twist makes Cup history

SENEGAL coach Aliou Cisse said he "accepted the rules of the game" as the west Africans were eliminated from the World Cup due to a worse disciplinary record than their direct rivals for a place in the last 16.

The Teranga Lions required only a draw with Colombia in their final Group F game in Samara, but could also have squeezed through to the last 16 in the event of defeat depending on the result of the other group game between Japan and Poland.

When already-eliminated Poland stunned Japan 1-0 in Volgogrard and Senegal suffered a 1-0 defeat, it left Japan and Senegal with the same points and the same goals difference.

The third criteria used to separate teams in this instance is their disciplinary record. With six yellow cards in three group games, Senegal were eliminated because Japan had only been issued four, leaving Africa without a representative in the last 16.

It's the first time in World Cup history a side has been eliminated based on the number of yellow cards it has received.

"It's the law of football," said Cisse. "We didn't qualify because we've earned more yellow cards, but I'm proud of my lads, they've worked hard for this tournament and I think we've showed we can have a bright future."

Former Senegal international Cisse refused to play the blame game. He said his players were aware of the rules but he had refused to tell them to adapt their game accordingly.

"It's the rules of the game, they've been established by FIFA and we have to respect it, even though we would have liked to have been eliminated another way," he said.

M'Baye Niang was the only Senegal player cautioned in a decisive 1-0 defeat to Colombia in Samara, where Barcelona defender Yerry Mina headed the South Americans' winner on 77 minutes.

Cisse said he had not asked his players to change their game. "I think the players knew all about it," he said. "I'm not going to ask my players to go on the pitch and try to avoid being issued yellow cards. Football is a contact game."

Yerry Mina leapt high above defenders to score on a header in the 74th minute to propel Colombia to a 1-0 win.

Colombia, which reached the quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil, finished atop its group and is the fourth South American team to advance. Senegal's elimination means all five African teams are eliminated.

Colombia is the only team in Russia to lose its opener - 2-1 to Japan - and make it to the round of 16. The Colombians appeared to regain form with a 3-0 victory over Poland. James Rodriguez, the Bayern Munich star who was a substitute in the team's opener because of a calf injury, set up two goals in that match.

But Colombia's hopes appeared diminished when Rodriguez was replace by Luis Muriel because of an apparent injury in the 31st minute against Senegal. Teammate Radamel Falcao patted him on the back sympathetically as he headed to the sideline.

Rodriguez returned to the team bench in the second half, in time to see Mina's header that gave Colombia the lead.

Mina leapt above a pair of Senegalese defenders to head the ball hard off the ground and off Senegal goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye's hand, sending the enthusiastic Colombian fans at Samara Stadium into a frenzy. Senegal kept trying to get a goal that would have sent it to the next round, but Colombia defended well.

Japan, content with a 1-0 defeat to Poland in the simultaneous match, was stalling because it would advance if the scores remained the same.

Video review was used in the 18th minute when Colombia's Davinson Sanchez tackled charging forward Sadio Mane. The referee originally gave Senegal the penalty, but the review went in Colombia's favour.

Senegal opened the tournament in Russia with a 2-1 victory over Poland and followed that with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Japan.

Senegal's last appearance in the World Cup came in 2002, when the team reached the quarterfinals. Current coach Aliou Cisse was the captain of that squad. This is the first time since 1982 that no African teams have advanced from the first round.

 

- with AP