SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) - Senegal’s commitment to producing winning World Cup performances ultimately costly them dear, said coach Aliou Cisse, as they became the first side in tournament history to be eliminated by the fair play regulations.
Senegal lost 1-0 to Colombia on Thursday and finished third in Group H, level on points and goal difference with Japan but below them because they collected two more yellow cards.
“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 after Senegal became the last African side to exit the tournament.
“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,” Cisse told a news conference.
“These are the laws of the game of football. We haven’t qualified because of fair play. We have fewer points in fair play and Senegal has not qualified because we don’t deserve it.”
Cisse said they had been well aware of the rules and that they had to be respected.
“Of course, we would have preferred to be eliminated in 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.”
Senegal’s tally of yellows was six from their win over Poland, draw with Japan and the loss to Colombia. Japan collected four. Both teams amassed four points and a goal aggregate of 4-4.
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.
“Looking at other teams here, I don’t think we should be ashamed of our football. There is not much difference between the top teams and the others,” he added.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Nizhny Novgorod; Editing by Ed Osmond