By Nick Butler |
Colombia and Japan progressed to the knock-out rounds of the FIFA World Cup today as Senegal were eliminated by virtue of their disciplinary record.
The result, which came on the final day of group action in Russia, meant that there will be no African side in the knockout rounds for the first time since 1982.
Belgium also beat England 1-0 in a drab Group F decider in which no side appeared sure whether they wanted to win or be content with second place and a potentially simpler draw.
It means England will face Colombia and Belgium will play Japan in the last-16.
Japan and Senegal had each started the day on four points in Group H in comparison with three for Colombia and none for Poland, who had no chance of progressing.
Senegal started the better against Colombia at the Cosmos Arena in Samara as they seemed stronger and faster than their opponents.
Sadio Mane won a penalty in the first half following a tackle by Davinson Sanchez only for the decision to be correctly overturned following VAR (video assistant referee) intervention by Champions League final referee Milorad Mazic.
Colombia also lost their key player James Rodriguez due to injury but a goal by Yerry Mina broke the deadlock as he rose highest from a Juan Quintero corner.
By this stage, Japan were trailing 1-0 to Poland at the Volgograd Arena after a well-taken volleyball from Poland’s Jan Bednarek from a Rafal Kurzawa free kick.
Maya Yoshida headed wide as they pushed for an equaliser but their intensity dropped as news of the Colombia goal seeped through.
It meant that Japan and Senegal had an identical number of points, goals scored and goals conceded but that the Asian side were ahead due to their four cards in comparison with the African team’s six.
Japan substitute Makoto Hasebe, who came on with eight minutes remaining, made a “card” gesture to his team-mates to make this clear and the match finished in farcical fashion.
Japan were content to play passes in their own half as Poland made little attempt to intervene.
It was a risky tactic, as a second goal for Poland or a Senegal equalizer would have led to them being eliminated, but it worked.
It meant that Colombia won the group with six points while Japan progressed in second place with four.
Adnan Januzaj’s spectacular strike ensured Belgium continued their 100 percent winning record and handed England a first defeat of the tournament at the Kaliningrad Stadium.
England made eight changes from their win over Panama when Belgium removed nine of those who had starred against Tunisia.
Januzaj lit up a largely lifeless encounter six minutes after half-time by cutting inside and curling a shot impressively past Jordan Pickford.
England badly missed the tournament’s top goalscorer Harry Kane as Marcus Rashford wasted their best chance to equalize.
Tunisia recovered from a goal down to beat Panama 2-1 in the battle between already eliminated teams at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk.
Tunisia had 14 chances but fell behind when Jose Luis Rodriguez’s effort deflected in off Yassine Meriah.
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef drew his team level when tapping in a low ball from Wahbi Khazri before Khazri himself put Tunisia ahead with a second-half strike.
A rest day will then take place tomorrow before knockout action begins.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.