Senegal coach Aliou Cisse believes his side did not “deserve” to advance to the World Cup knockout stage as they became the first team to be eliminated via their fair play ranking on Thursday.
Following a 1-0 defeat to Colombia, Senegal were left with an identical record as Japan, who advanced because they only picked up four yellow cards in the group stage, while Senegal had six.
The fair play ranking is being used as a tiebreaker for the first time at a World Cup, but Cisse had no issues with the new regulation despite his side ending up on the losing end.
“We haven’t qualified because of fair play. We have fewer points in fair play and Senegal doesn’t qualify because we don’t deserve it,” Cisse said after the game. “This is one of the rules. We have to respect it.
“Of course, We would prefer to be eliminated another way. It’s a sad for us but we knew these were the regulations.
“We were fully committed and maybe because we were fully committed, we got more yellow cards.”
Previously, a random drawing of lots would have decided which team would advance between Japan and Senegal.
Senegal were given two yellow cards in their opening win over Poland, three in the draw with Japan — including two in second-half stoppage time — and one on Thursday before Colombia’s goal brought the tiebreaker into effect.
Cisse, however, said he was not lamenting his players’ bookings.
“Senegal’s players were all highly committed. It’s difficult to play well at the World Cup if you don’t play with a lot of commitment,” Cisse said.
“I don’t know whether this regulation is cruel but there was no way I could ask my players to try and avoid yellow cards. It’s a shame that this has worked against us.”
Senegal’s elimination confirmed Africa’s worst performance since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, when the continent last failed to get a team past the first round.
“African football is making a lot of progress,” Cisse said. “We will not give up and I think there will be great things in the future.”
Senegal had been one of three teams to never have lost a group-stage match at the World Cup, along with Wales and East Germany, but saw that record ended against Colombia.
“Looking at other teams here, I don’t think we should be ashamed of our football,” Cisse added. “There is not much difference between the top teams and the others.”
Yellow card breakdown
1: Salif Sane vs. Poland, 49th minute, fouling Robert Lewandowski (Bahraini referee Nawaf Shukralla)
2: Idrissa Gueye vs. Poland, 72′, fouling Lewandowski (Shukralla)
3: M’Baye Niang vs. Japan, 59′, hitting Gen Shoji in the face with an arm (Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi)
4: Youssouf Sabaly vs. Japan, 90′, tackle of Tomoaki Makino (Rocchi)
5: Cheikh N’Doye vs. Japan, 90’+1′, infringement on Maya Yoshida contesting a long ball (Rocchi)
6: M’Baye Niang vs. Colombia, 51′, kicking Juan Cuadrado while trying to win a loose ball (Serbian referee Milorad Mazic)
1: Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima vs. Colombia, 90+4′, time wasting (Slovenian referee Damir Skomina)
2: Takashi Inui vs. Senegal, 68′, pulling down Ismaila Sarr just outside the penalty area (Rocchi)
3: Makoto Hasebe vs. Senegal, 90’+4′, fouling Sadio Mane (Rocchi)
4: Tomoaki Makino vs. Poland, 66′, fouling Robert Lewandowski (Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe)
Information from Rueters and The Associated Press was used in this report.