A single, stout header from Yerry Mina was enough for Colombia to beat Senegal and finish top of Group H in what proved to be a lively old spat in Samara.
Things almost got off to a rotten start for Jose Pekerman’s team when Davinson Sanchez was initially adjudged to have felled Sadio Mane in the box.
However, a VAR review swiftly revealed that Sanchez’s tackle was almost surgically precise, with the Tottenham defender getting a vital heel on the ball before sending Mane tumbling turfwards.
The only goal of the game came in the 75th minute when Mina rose like a spire amidst the Senegalese penalty area to ram home Juan Quintero’s corner.
While Mina’s header was a thing of towering beauty, it paled in comparison to the ensuing celebration, wherein the entire Los Cafeteros team lined up on the far touchline and performed an elongated electric boogaloo…
With Poland beating Japan and the race for second place in Group H now ridiculously tight, Senegal knew they were heading out as things stood – and all because they had picked up one more yellow card than the Blue Samurais.
Aliou Cisse’s intrepid charges rallied in the latter stage but a breakthrough never really came close as Colombia stood firm.
Over in Volgograd, Japan, despite being one goal down, knew they were heading through on fair play and were more than happy to gamble on it remaining so for the remaining 15 minutes of their match.
Indeed, they made a point of tossing things off entirely by keeping the ball in their own defensive line while Poland, already out, were equally content to idle in their own half.
Possession areas in the final 15 mins of Japan v Poland. That middle third looks busy. pic.twitter.com/gQxz6uFp3T
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) June 28, 2018
Cynical and more than a little unseemly, yes, but it got the job done.
As such, Colombia and Japan head into the last 16 while Senegal become the first ever World Cup team to be knocked out by the FIFA Fair Play rule, introduced for 2018 to replace the coin flip of yesteryear.
That’s got to sting.