Senegal became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated from advancing to the knockout round due to FIFA’s fair play points tie-breaker after it suffered a 1-0 loss to Colombia on Thursday in Group H play at Samara.
FIFA’s fair-play rule is the sixth and second-to-last tie-breaker to separate teams who were level on points, goal difference and goals scored after three group matches. Senegal and Japan had to revert to tiebreakers to determine the group runner-up after Samurai Blue suffered a 1-0 loss to Poland that left the sides level with four points, no goal difference and four goals scored.
Because the Lions of Teranga played Japan to a 2-2 draw, all of the head-to-head tiebreakers were moot, which resulted in using the fair play rules.
And the two stoppage-time yellow cards Youssouf Sabaly and Cheikh Ndoye accrued in that draw proved to be very costly for Aliou Cisse’s side, which had racked up five bookings to Japan’s three in the first two matches.
Each team picked up one in its final contest, which denied Senegal a spot in the knockout round in its first World Cup appearance since its run to the quarterfinals in 2002. It also meant there would be no African teams in the knockout round in the World Cup for the first time since 1982.
Colombia claimed group honors with Yerry Mina’s header in the 74th minute off a corner kick. Mina rose highest to meet Juan Quintero’s outswinger, powering a downward header from six yards that beat Senegal keeper Khadim Ndiaye inside the right post.
Los Cafeteros have advanced to the knockout round of back-to-back World Cups for the first time in their history and will face either England or Belgium in the round of 16 in Moscow on July 3. Colombia’s quarterfinal appearance in Brazil four years ago was its best result in five appearances heading into this summer.
Senegal instantly ramped up its urgency after the goal and spent most of the final quarter-hour in Colombia’s half. In the 77th minute, Mbaye Niang stung Ospina’s palms from seven yards on the right after he did well to create an angle past Mina. Off the ensuing corner, Ospina dove to his right to prevent Mina from scoring an own goal as his header inadvertently became a quality shot on frame.
In the 79th minute, Ismalia Sarr should have done better with his volley on the right off a chip from Sadio Mane across the penalty area. Colombia did well to see out the match over the final 10-plus minutes while Japan and Poland played out their result in Volgograd.
Colombia had the first quality scoring chance, with Ndiaye doing well to push Quintero’s free kick around the left post in the 12th minute. The Colombian midfielder placed his left-footed attempt perfectly, bouncing it inside the six-yard box to challenge Ndiaye as he dove to knock it away.
Four minutes later, referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot after he adjudged Davinson Sanchez to have fouled Sadio Mane. However, the VAR crew told Mazic to take a second look, which determined Sanchez made a clean tackle to separate the Liverpool attacker from the ball and the call was overturned.
Opsina made a pair of saves on free kicks by Keita Balde and Mbaye Niang in rapid succession, and Sarr tested the Arsenal No. 2 in the 28th minute with a curling effort angling at the right post that he also got collected.
Right after the half-hour, Colombia star James Rodriguez was forced off after aggravating a calf injury that limited him to one start and 30-minute stints in the other two matches. Luis Muriel entered for Los Cafeteros, and a frustrated Rodriguez walked straight into the tunnel rather than return to the bench.
Both matches went to halftime scoreless, leaving everything still at stake. Niang picked up his second booking of the tournament, Senegal’s sixth of the tournament. On the hour, word filtered into Samara that Poland had scored, which meant a scoreless draw would have seen both Colombia and Senegal through to the knockout round.
Mane earned a free kick 25 yards from goal in the 62nd minute, but he slipped on his approach and ballooned his right-footed attempt well over the bar. Muriel fizzed a low effort from 15 yards after a corner pinged around Senegal’s penalty area, but Kalidou Koulibaly deflected it over the touchline for a corner.
Ndiaye raced off his line to get to a through ball before Muriel, plowing the Colombia forward but doing so without drawing a penalty. Senegal swapped Moussa Wague in for Sabaly in the 74th minute moments before Mina’s goal.
The only other time FIFA reached fair play as a tiebreaker was 1990, when it had to draw lots to determine second and third for Ireland and the Netherlands in Group F. Ireland won the draw and reached the quarterfinals while the Dutch lost to eventual champion West Germany in the round of 16.