Mina – and fair play points – break Senegalese hearts

Juan Fernando Quintero swung the corner into the box, and delivered it into a dangerous area. Colombia were desperately fighting for a goal to keep themselves in the World Cup, against a Senegalese defence who knew that a draw would be enough and a loss would be catastrophic. Now, deep into the second half, Colombia had a chance. Quintero’s corner found Yerry Mina, who had scored the opening goal in their previous match against Poland. The centre-back rose to meet the ball, beating out any Senegalese defender in the vicinity in the process, and slammed the ball goalward, with Khadim N’Diaye unable to stop the ball as it slammed into the roof of the net. The goal consigned Senegal to elimination, with the Lions of Teranga falling behind Japan on the basis of fair play points. In the end, two yellow cards over the course of three games was the difference between success and a heartbreaking elimination. Senegal fought valiantly, and their elimination will be hard to stomach.

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Colombia’s players celebrate after Yerry Mina’s winning goal. The goal knocked Senegal out of the World Cup by the finest of margins.

The game started openly, but neither team really seemed to have any control over what was happening as the ball shot around the field quickly and somewhat unpredictably with almost no stoppages. Quintero forced a fine save from N’Diaye with a well-placed free-kick, but there were few other chances early. Then Senegal won a penalty – or so they thought. Sadio Mané was brought down in the box, slipping in behind the defence after a nice passing move and ending up on the deck after Dávinson Sánchez’s sliding challenge from behind. Milorad Mažić pointed to the spot, and Colombia protested vehemently. Then the video assistant referee stepped in. Mažić moved towards the tiny monitor between the benches, had a good look, and eventually determined that the tackle was fair, and that Dávinson had just pulled off one of the best tackles of the tournament.

Colombia settled back in after their near-miss, and the game went back to its earlier pattern. With neither team really creating anything, there was little action for the rest of the half, with Senegal looking slightly more fluent going forward but not dominating by any means. About the most interesting incident was the puzzling substitution of Colombian star James Rodríguez, who had no impact for the first half hour and was replaced, presumably injured, without leaving a mark. By half time, nobody had looked like finding the back of the net, with Senegal lacking the finishing touch in the final third and Colombia lacking any sort of attacking presence against Senegal’s well-organised defence.

The second half took on a similar rhythm to the first, with Colombia becoming slightly more desperate. After a fairly lengthy period of inaction, Colombia started to create some chances, driven by the tireless work of Luis Muriel. Muriel had come on for James, and he threatened to score with a well-hit shot from the edge of the area. The ball was deflected away for a corner, and Radamel Falcao proceeded to send a header flying just over the bar. Muriel got involved again a few minutes later, forcing N’Diaye to clean up in the box and getting himself taken out as a result, and N’Diaye had more work to do when Salif Sané’s muffed clearance travelled straight towards his goal. Then Mina scored his fateful goal, and Senegal’s future in the tournament was cast into serious doubt.

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Sadio Mané (left) battles for the ball with Dávinson Sánchez. Mané fought hard, but his efforts weren’t quite enough to get Senegal over the line.

Their qualification for the next round now in jeopardy, Senegal came out swinging. M’Baye Niang fired a shot at Ospina’s goal, and the Colombian goalkeeper did well to parry it away. Ospina was tested again from the resulting corner, but Mina managed to get his head on the ball and it was a relatively easy claim for the keeper. They never got so close again. They tried, but they just couldn’t breach the disciplined Colombian defence. They tried, but their World Cup campaign still ended in devastating circumstances.

Samara – Cosmos Arena
Senegal 0
Colombia 1 (Mina 74)
Referee: Milorad Mažić (Srb)
Senegal (4-4-2): K N’Diaye – Gassama, Sané, Koulibaly, Sabaly (Wagué 74); Sarr, Kouyaté, Gueye, Mané; Keita Baldé (Konaté 80), Niang (Sakho 86).
Colombia (4-2-3-1): Ospina – Arias, Mina, D Sánchez, Mojica; C Sánchez, Uribe (Lerma 83); Cuadrado, Quintero, Rodríguez (Muriel 31); Falcao (Borja 89).

Top 5
1. Luis Muriel (Colombia)
Muriel came on for James after the first half hour, and had a real impact on Colombia’s fortunes. He never gave up on the ball, and used his pace to good effect as he hunted down the Senegalese defenders and put them under pressure they didn’t expect. His energy gave Colombia the momentum they needed to go ahead.
2. Idrissa Gueye (Senegal)
Gueye did a very important job for Senegal in the centre of the park, and he had a huge impact defensively with his ability to win duels one-on-one. He won the ball back in crucial areas, and his solidity in possession kick-started a few Senegalese attacks.
3. Yerry Mina (Colombia)
Mina played a key role in the heart of the Colombian defence, but it was his goal-scoring exploits which sent Colombia through and set him apart. He now has two goals in two World Cup games thanks to his proficiency in the air, and his defensive work has added some much-needed stability to the Colombian back four.
4. Sadio Mané (Senegal)
Mané played a more central role in the Senegalese attack than he did in the first two games, and he found himself on the ball in more dangerous spots as a result. He came very close to winning a penalty, and he was always threatening Colombia with his pace and skill.
5. Carlos Sánchez (Colombia)
Sánchez came back into the team after being suspended for an ill-advised handball in the box, and immediately showed his value to the Colombian midfield. He was heavily involved as he tried to thwart Senegal’s dynamic attackers, and he was more than willing to get stuck in as he worked to shield the defence.

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