Samara, June 28 (IANS) Colombia qualified for the pre-quarterfinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup riding on Yerry Mina’s second half winner to knock Senegal out in a crunch Group H encounter here on Thursday.
After a barren first half, Mina (74th minute) headed in a corner to send Colombian players and supporters into delirium as they needed nothing less than a victory to secure qualification.
Colombia finished on top of the group with six points, while Senegal finished level on four points with Japan, who lost 0-1 to already-eliminated Poland in the other group game played simultaneously.
Both Japan and Senegal had even goal differences and had scored four goals each, but Japan advanced as runners-up because they only picked up four yellow cards in the group stage, while Senegal had six.
This is the third time Colombia have reached the last 16. This time, it boiled down to their final group game in which chances were few and far between as both sides started cautiously keeping in mind the stakes of the game.
Colombia forward Radamel Falcao won a free kick in the 11th minute while Juan Quintero’s shot was saved by the Senegal goalkeeper.
Senegal were then denied a penalty in the 18th minute after a VAR review in the 17th minute. Sadio Mane was brought down by Colombia defender Davinson Sanchez inside the box and Senegal was awarded a spot kick. Following the VAR check, the referee reversed his decision and cancelled the penalty for the Teranga Lions afterwards.
In the 31st minute, the South American side suffered a major jolt when James Rodriguez, 2014 edition’s top scorer, was taken out by coach Jose Peckerman in what looked like an injury.
In the second half, Colombia looked to up the ante but Senegal too put pressure and goalkeeper David Ospina was forced into some good saves to keep them at bay.
There were number of chances wasted at both ends too as time ticked on.
Then came Colombia’s moment of reckoning when Quintero’s corner was majestically met by Mina to bullet home a downward header and send their swathes of supporters into raptures.
Senegal tried hard to stage a comeback but their main man Mane looked off colour as they eventually failed to pull one back.
With Senegal’s exit, this will be the first time since the Round-of-16 came into being in 1986 that there will be no African teams represented.