MOSCOW — Senegal became the last African team to be eliminated from the World Cup – by the narrowest and cruelest of margins.
After a remarkably coincidental series of result, Senegal and Japan found themselves tied on points after completing all three games in Group H. Colombia’s 1-0 win over Senegal on Thursday in Samara, combined with Japan’s defeat to Poland by the same scoreline in a game played simultaneously, had both teams locked together on four points
With Colombia topping the group, a series of tiebreakers was needed to separate Senegal and Japan – with the Japanese emerging into the round of 16 thanks to its better disciplinary record.
The first tiebreaker, of goal differential, could not separate the sides. Neither could the criteria of goals scored as Japan and Senegal both scored four and conceded four during the group stage. The next decider is based on “results between the tied teams.” However, Japan and Senegal drew 2-2 with each other when they played in their second match of the event.
In previous tournaments, the “drawing of lots” – essentially a coin flip – would have been used as the final way of breaking the deadlock.
However, disciplinary records now come into play, rewarding the team that has received the lower number of yellow and red cards. Senegal ended up with six yellows (worth one disciplinary point each), while Japan finished with four.
Jan Bednarek’s 59th-minute goal for Poland had Japan on the verge of missing out, but Yerry Mina’s goal for Colombia put the South Americans through, rescued Japan, and sent Senegal home in the worst way possible.
Senegal became the first team eliminated from a World Cup on account of its disciplinary standings – little consolation for a side that deserved better after bringing an upbeat, high-tempo and entertaining approach to the tournament.