Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said he “accepted the rules of the game” as the west Africans were eliminated from the World Cup due to a worse disciplinary record than their direct rivals for a place in the last 16.
The Teranga Lions required only a draw with Colombia in their final Group F game in Samara, but could also have squeezed through to the last 16 in the event of defeat depending on the result of the other group game between Japan and Poland.
When already-eliminated Poland stunned Japan 1-0 in Volgogrard and Senegal suffered a 1-0 defeat, it left Japan and Senegal with the same points and the same goals difference.
The third criteria used to separate teams in this instance is their disciplinary record. With six yellow cards in three group games, Senegal were eliminated because Japan had only been issued four, leaving Africa without a representative in the last 16.
“It’s the law of football,” said Cisse. “We didn’t qualify because we’ve earned more yellow cards, but I’m proud of my lads, they’ve worked hard for this tournament and I think we’ve showed we can have a bright future.”
Former Senegal international Cisse refused to play the blame game.
He said his players were aware of the rules but he had refused to tell them to adapt their game accordingly.
“It’s the rules of the game, they’ve been established by Fifa and we have to respect it, even though we would have liked to have been eliminated another way,” he said.
M’Baye Niang was the only Senegal player cautioned in a decisive 1-0 defeat to Colombia in Samara, where Barcelona defender Yerry Mina headed the south Americans’ winner on 77 minutes.
Cisse said he had not asked his players to change their game.
“I think the players knew all about it,” he said. “I’m not going to ask my players to go on the pitch and try to avoid being issued yellow cards. Football is a contact game.”