Last African Standing, Senegal, Bows Out of Russia 2018

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Africa’s last hope at the 2018 World Cup here in Russia, Senegal, Thursday failed to qualify for the knock out phase after 0-1 defeat by South American representative, Colombia, at the Samara Arena. Colombia finished as Group H winners on six points with Japan the runner up.

Other African representatives including, Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco had earlier all exited the tournament at this early stage.

The loss capped Africa’s poor outing at Russia 2018, It was the first time since 1982 edition in Spain that no African team qualified from the group stage.

Interestingly, only Senegal (2002), Cameroon (1990), and Ghana (2010) have managed to progress up to the quarter-final phase of the global football showpiece held every four years.

But on Thursday night, the Teranga Lions whom tied on four points with Japan were edged out via the Fair Play rule for breaking of ties.

While the Blue Samurai have four caution cards, the Senegalese were booked six times at the group stage. Senegal had only needed a point in their final Group H game to reach the next round.

FC Barcelona player, Yerry Mina, scored his second goal of Russia 2018 to see Colombia through to the Last 16.

In the group’s other match, Poland edged Japan 1-0 yet the Blue Samurai were lucky becoming the first team in history to advance to the World Cup knockout stage on the fair play rule.

The game was played evenly throughout, with few significant goal-scoring chances of note. The decisive moment came when Los Cafeteros’ towering centre-back Mina leapt high above his markers to head in the winning goal in the second half.

It was a crushing blow to the Senegalese who had been the better side for most of the game and had a penalty award overturned in the first half after a VAR review.

They had looked set to take the lead in the 17th minute when Liverpool forward Sadio Mane went down in the area under a challenge from Davinson Sanchez and referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot.

The VAR system has not been universally acclaimed at this tournament, but television replays appeared to show Sanchez get his heel on the ball, before clattering into Mane, and after reviewing his original decision, Mazic agreed.

Colombia had got off to a poor start and suffered a blow early on when playmaker and talisman James Rodriguez was forced off injured.

After his display in their last match against Poland, Colombian hopes had again been pinned on the shoulders of Rodriguez, who had spearheaded their run to the last quarterfinals four years ago.

Those hopes looked forlorn, however, within minutes of kickoff at the Samara Arena as the forward was hit with one heavy challenge, which clearly took its toll, and he was withdrawn after half an hour having spent much of the intervening period ambling around the pitch.

His exit did little, however, to revive the sluggish South Americans, who had been second best in almost every department.

Chances throughout the game were thin on the ground, with Colombia striker Radamel Falcao heading off target in the 25th minute and again in the second half, while substitute Luis Muriel had an effort blocked.

Yet Mina ensured Colombia were not made to pay when he headed home in the 74th minute.