FT World Cup 2018: Senegal were so close but yet so far
Africa are out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament. Shocking right? Many experts and coaches from all over the world predicted that African teams would do better in the competition this time around, but they were left disappointed. Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho are just two of the many experts that shared in this pre-tournament belief. But how exactly did Senegal let the chance slip through their fingers in the final match? Here’s how.
In the first two matches, we did not see the captain of the team, Cheikhou Kouyate in the starting XI as well as the boy wonder, Keita Balde Diao on one of the flanks. Coach Aliou Cisse decided to change things up and accommodate the two players in a compact 4-4-2 formation against Colombia on June 28. Mane, who was playing up front with Niang, got an opportunity to score but lost the ball in the penalty box to Yerry Mina. VAR was used, and it adjudged that Mina committed a legal tackle. The Senegalese team were dangerous on the break but failed to score. A second-best Colombia team was unfortunate to lose James Rodriguez to injury, and they replaced him with an attacker, Muriel. Yerry MIna later proved again decisive as he stunned Senegal when he rose above the defenders to head in the game-winning goal on the 74th minute. Senegal now needed a goal to secure their place in the Round of 16 with Japan losing 1-0 to Poland. They fought, but could not score past Ospina. The match ended 1-0 and Senegal were level on points with Japan. They scored the same number of goals and conceded the same in the group stage. The two teams could not be separated by the head-to-head fixture either as it ended in a draw. For the first time in the tournament, a team was eliminated based on the number of yellow cards they picked up in the tournament. Senegal finished 3rd in the group, and it must be heartbreaking to bow out like that.
This means that the journey for the 5 African teams has ended in the group stage. Better luck next time, Africa.