CAPE TOWN – With the hopes of a continent on their shoulders, Senegal were eliminated from the World Cup in the Samara Arena yesterday after losing 1-0 to Colombia.
But Africa's last hopes did not diminish based on goals scored and points attained - it was due to an inferior disciplinary record over the three games of the first round.
Colombia topped Group H, with Senegal and Japan tied on four points. But, with only one of those two sides to proceed to the last 16 along with the Colombians, Japan got the nod on the basis that their players had collected only four yellow cards in three matches, as opposed to the six of the Senegalese.
So, another World Cup and another African failure. This year’s performance weakens African football’s claim for greater representation at the tournament, which will next be held in Qatar in 2022.
Senegal’s elimination ensured all five of CAF’s representatives at the tournament were eliminated at the group stage.
It is the first time since Cameroon reached the quarter-finals in 1990 that Africa has failed to have a team in the knock-out phase.
The Lions of Teranga, who beat Poland 2-1 and drew 2-2 with Japan, were Africa’s shining beacon and everyone’s favourite to carry the continent’s flag.
All they needed to achieve yesterday was to hold the Colombians to a draw and would have progressed to the last 16.
But the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists failed to seal the deal, with the Senegalese allowing Yerra Mina to head in a corner kick unchallenged on 74 minutes.
There was still enough time for Alilou Cisse’s men to snatch the equaliser that would have seen them progress. But, as with the other four nations at the tournament, the match petered out to an unflattering end. They just did not have that killer instinct in front of goal.
That, coupled with a failure to maintain their shape in defence and concentrate for the entire match - a downfall of Africa’s representatives, with Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt having failed to make the knock-out stage.