Colombia 1-0 Senegal
Poland 1-0 Japan
Japan and Colombia advance
Senegal created a piece of unwanted history on Thursday, becoming the first team ever to be eliminated from the World Cup on the fair play rule.
With their game against Colombia looking destined for a draw and Poland beating Japan, Senegal were set to qualify for the last 16 as Group H winners.
But Yerry Mina’s late goal gave the South Americans victory and left Senegal and Japan level on points, goal difference and head-to-head.
It meant that, as the full time whistles blew in Samara and Volgograd, Senegal were eliminated due to having accumulated two more yellow cards than Japan.
Russia 2018 is the first World Cup in which fair play has been active after it was introduced to all FIFA competitions after Brazil four years ago.
Senegal had been the last remaining African side in the competition and the elimination of Aliou Cisse’s side means that there will be no team from the continent in the second round of a World Cup for the first time since 1982.
Group H was won by Colombia, whilst Japan progress despite losing 1-0 to bottom of the table Poland.
Despite the onus being on Colombia to go out and get the win necessary to advance, the South Americans sat back and allowed Senegal to attack in numbers.
There were few early chances to speak of, though Senegal were by some distance the better of the two sides.
It was on one of the team’s early forays forward that the first opening came, as Davinson Sanchez brought down Liverpool forward Sadio Mane in the box.
Referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot, before being advised by the Video Assistant Referee to review his decision. Having watched the incident on the pitchside monitor, Mazic overturned his original call.
It was the right decision and rewarded Sanchez for his perfectly-timed tackle.
However, Colombia’s hopes of progressing were then dealt a huge blow as star man James Rodriguez was substituted after just half an hour with a suspected injury.
Looking forlorn and with tears in his eyes, the Bayern Munich midfielder was consoled by captain Radamel Falcao as he trudged off the pitch to be replaced by Luis Muriel.
As the clock approached the hour mark, the biggest cheer of the afternoon reverberated around the Samara Arena.
It initially started as a quiet murmur, before word gradually spread among the several thousand Colombian fans.
It wasn’t even to celebrate something in the stadium, rather a goal that had been scored 800 kilometers away in Volgograd.
Jan Bednarek’s strike for Poland against Japan meant that Colombia were heading through to the knockout stages at the expense of the Asian side.
Things were about to get even better for the wall of yellow shirts – they would soon have a goal of their own to cheer.
Barcelona defender Mina rose highest in the box to meet Juan Quintero’s corner and powered his header past Khadim N’Diaye in the Senegal goal.
Usually blessed with rhythm and impeccable footwork, Colombia have treated the watching crowds to some memorable celebrations over the years.
However, it’s fair to say the team’s effort in the aftermath of Mina’s goal didn’t live up to the perfect choreography of years gone by.
With the two games heading for 1-0 finishes, Japan was now heading through at Senegal’s expense due to having accrued just four yellow cards to Senegal’s six.
Poland and Japan have drawn criticism for the way they played out the final 15 minutes, barely breaking a sweat as the players casually passed the ball back and forth.
It was a risky game to play, though, as a Senegal goal would have once against eliminated Japan.
But when Mbaye Niang blazed Mane’s pinpoint cross over the crossbar, the final dregs of energy were sapped from the Senegalese players.
It was a cruel way for a team which has brought so much color and joy to Russia to be eliminated.