There will be no African teams in the World Cup Round of 16, after Senegal fell by the wayside in galling circumstances.
The Lions of Teranga lost 1-0 to Colombia and with Japan losing to Poland by the same scoreline, the West Africans became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated by virtue of disciplinary record.
They had received six yellow cards to the Blue Samurais’ four, and Japan were gleefully – and disgracefully – able to play out their game without making any effort to attack once the news has filtered through to the pitch. Both teams finished on four points in Group H.
As disappointing as it is that Confederation of African Football is the only footballing federation without a representative in the last 16, it does seem to be par for the course for African football. We will have to wait four more years to have our renewed hopes dashed once more.
For Senegal, who played the best football of any side from the continent under the only black coach in the tournament in Aliou Cisse, the loss was exacerbated by the fact that Serbian referee Milorad Mazic changed his decision to award a first-half penalty to Senegal after consulting with VAR.
Barcelona defender Yerry Mina then found the net for the second time in the tournament, directing a powerful header into the roof of Khadim Ndiaye’s net 13 minutes from time.
Africa just can’t get the rub of the green.
Not every player will have the privilege of appearing and captaining his side in five consecutive World Cups like Mexico’s legendary Rafael Marquez. Many will only ever appear at one global showpiece.
It’s time African football put proper plans in place to make the most of these limited opportunities.
Japan will take on Belgium, while Colombia face England in the Round of 16, after a Adnan Januzaj goal gave the Belgians a 1-0 win over the Three Lions.
With both European teams having secured their passage to the next round, the coaches chose to field second-string sides in an underwhelming Group G encounter.