Heartbreak for Senegal, who bow out of the competition due to their disciplinary record, is mirrored by euphoria for Colombia who top the group on 6 points following their 1-0 victory
Colombia beat Senegal 1-0 and despite Senegal level on points with Japan on 4 points, they finish third due to fair play rules having accumulated more yellow cards. The African nation have played extremely well in Russia but will rue their missed chances. They were bidding to become the only African side left in the competition to advance onto the round of 16. However, their exit means that Africa will not be represented in the next round for the first time in a while.
|Image: Soccer Betting News|
Senegal went into their final group game having made three changes from their previous fixture against Japan. Aliou Cissé, who is the youngest manager at this tournament, opted for N’Diaye in goal with Gassama, Sané, Koulibaly and Sabaly in defence. Sarr, Kouyaté, Gueye and Keita formed Senegal’s midfield as Mané and Niang led the line up top.
Meanwhile, Colombian manager José Pékerman made two changes from the side which dismantled Poland. Ospina retained his goal while Arias, Mina, Davinson Sánchez, Mojica formed the defence. Carlos Sánchez, who was sent off after only three minutes against Japan, was recalled to the defence as the South American side opted for a back five. The strongest section of their team is arguably situated in their midfield, which was evident as Uribe, Cuadrado, Quintero and Rodríguez all started. The prolific striker and captain, Falcao, began upfront in a game whereby a win was the only viable option for Colombia.
It was a tightly contested first half as expected due to the enormity of the match.
The first real chance came in the 9th minute as Senegal were awarded a free kick. Though it was quite some distance from goal, the ball into the box hardly threatened Colombia’s number one as David Ospina easily caught the ball. Colombia responded to the Senegalese pressure as they forced a save from N’Diaye following a 12th minute free kick from Quintero. He struck the ball to the keeper’s side and forced a good save.
Then, in the 16th minute, the most dramatic moment of the half occurred as the referee awarded Senegal a penalty following what appeared to be a foul by Davinson Sanchez on Sadio Mané inside the penalty area. However, replays clearly showed that what was considered a reckless last-ditch tackle from the Colombian was actually a perfectly executed recovery of the ball from the Tottenham defender. This forced the referee to check VAR, which has grabbed all the headlines (whether for the right or wrong reason is up to the discretion of the reader). Having briefly consulted VAR, the referee correctly overturned the penalty which displayed the vitality of VAR in the modern game. Had this advanced technology not been instilled during this game and the World Cup then Colombia could easily have been denied a chance of qualifying due to human error. Though VAR is still in its provisional phases, this moment was another boost for its proponents.
Following this, Colombia grew in confidence and began to find their feet in the game. Falcao seemed to be the most relieved person in the stadium having headed the ball over in the 25th minute following a free kick whipped in by Quintero from a dangerous position. However, Falcao was evidently offside and so the goal, even if the ball had been in the back of the net, would not have stood though someone of his quality should have put that chance away.
One of the most interesting duels during the first half was between Spurs’ Davinson Sánchez against Liverpool’s Sadio Mané. The former did well to contain the Senegalese who was an incessant presence and threat throughout the first 45 minutes.
It became apparent that Colombia, 30 minutes into the game, were second best in every department of the game and so they made an early tactical substitution. Talisman and national hero James Rodríguez was taken off and replaced by Muriel. Though this was an initial shock, Rodríguez, who was so impressive in their previous game against Poland, had failed to make an impact on this match that may have been due to not being completely fit.
The script for the second half could not have been written any more clearer. In what was a slow start, as there were no early signs of either side taking the game into their own hands, the spectators and commentators alike knew that one team would have to go for the win.
In the 60th minute, the game blossomed to life. The changing atmosphere in the stadium could be accounted for especially after the Colombian fans learned that Poland scored against Japan which would see them finish second in Group H. Senegal’s opening chance of the second half came in the 63rd minute when they received a free kick in a promising position. Sadio Mané, who has been anything but shy in front of goal this season, stepped up but unfortunately slipped and set the ball into row Z.
Taking Rodríguez off so early was undoubtedly a risk, though his replacement, Muriel, brought the game to life as he made an attempt on-goal following a free kick which was blocked by the Senegalese defender in the 64th minute. With the game still level, Colombia at this point were heading out as results in the other game did not benefit them. Then, in the 65th minute, captain Radamel Falcao was presented with another glorious chance but miscued his header. The story of the game so far had been one of missed chances, which Colombia would have regretted even more especially after the controversial moment in the 66th minute. N’Diaye came rushing off his line to intercept the ball off the feet of Muriel. The Senegalese fans momentarily held their breaths as though it was a successful tackle.
The game completely changed in the 74th minute. With just over 15 minutes to go, and Colombia on their way out, Yerry Mina, who scored in the opening goal against Poland, intelligently lost his marker and thumped the header past the helpless N’Diaye into the back of the net following a corner. An excellent goal was matched by an even better celebration that involved the majority of the Colombian outfield players. As the results stood, Colombia would be progressing to the next round as group winners.
|Image: Twitter @Futbol_Matrix|
Senegal sought to respond as this goal proved fatal towards their World Cup aspirations. Knowing that they needed only a point against Colombia to secure their qualification, Mina’s goal meant they would finish third in the group and exit the competition. Senegal sought to respond as they worked a chance in the 76th minute as the shot in the box was saved by Ospina. News unequivocally travelled to the other Group H game, as Japan and Poland embarrassingly spent the final 10 minutes passing the ball around in a lacklustre manner which suggested that the two camps conferred to keep the result as it was: Poland would win and preserve some dignity while Japan would qualify without accumulating any more cards.
Could do nothing about the goal as he was beaten by a powerful header
Saved his side from a greater deficit following his timely challenge on Muriel inside the penalty box
Nothing terribly wrong with their performances but must take some responsibility for their failure to keep a clean sheet
Poor defending of the corner led to the goal in which Mina lost his marker
Utilised his blistering pace but failed to force the issue for Senegal
Kept possession ticking for Senegal when on the ball but largely outclassed by the prowess of Colombia’s midfield
Decent performance but could not produce the goods against a highly talented side
Worked tirelessly throughout the match and was unlucky not to score
Engaged in a physical yet entertaining duel with Davinson Sánchez and continued to provide a threat
Like Mané, worked tirelessly all afternoon but will ultimately be judged upon how many goals he scores which were none today
Kept a clean sheet which is always a confidence booster
Well-deserved following some important saves
A good defensive performance and helped his side keep a clean sheet
Matchwinner and played with an intensity that brought the game to life in the 74th minute
Davinson Sánchez: 8/10
Was fantastic in defence and marshalled the rest of the back line
Unlucky not to win MOTM, only to Mina who was the match winner
Played well and formed part of a robust defence
Carlos Sánchez: 7/10
A positive display (as he lasted the full 90 minutes) and was a good way to comeback following his difficult week
A solid performance but was masked by better displays from the more creative players
Was a constant threat and seemingly linked up Colombia’s play
Prolific on set-pieces and was creative throughout the game
Awarded for his endeavour with an assist on the corner for Mina’s goal
Disappointing day at the office for the 2014 Golden Boot winner who appears to be lacking full match fitness
Luckily his side has qualified for the next round and will undoubtedly call upon his services
Replaced James Rodríguez and provided Colombia with some pace and energy that was missing in the initial stages of the game
Unlucky not to score due to a great sweeper keeper reaction from N’Diaye
Not his day today as he missed some chances but persevered throughout by initially creating those opportunities for himself
Match winner with an excellent goal where he showed intelligence and physicality to lose his marker and head home
Has proven to be an important player in this Colombian side over the past two games
The use of such technology has been persistently scrutinised throughout this World Cup though its fruits appeared on show following a correct decision overturned by VAR. The referee originally awarded Senegal a penalty but after consulting the video replay, was compelled to change his decision. It was a clear and obvious, though understandable mistake from the referee which is why VAR had been brought in- to iron out and reduce such errors.
2. AFRICAN FOOTBALL
Another game, another African side loses and exists from the competition. Same old story. Despite Senegal being a beacon of hope for African football, their failure to progress from the group is a clear remainder that this continent still has some way to go in matching the rest of the world. Only five African teams qualified for the 2018 World Cup though none made it through to the last 16.
3. ENGLAND’S OPPONENTS?