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.”