Colombia and Belgium became the final two group winners today as they both secured 1-0 victories against Senegal and England respectively. Neither team were favourites to win coming into the last day of the group: Colombia because of their slow start and injury problems; Belgium because of their their significantly weakened team. To be fair, England did field a weakened team as well, but many still fancied the English to win.
Colombia and Senegal played a tight game with both defences solid throughout. The African side needed just a point to advance, and were in pole position to top the group as Poland (already eliminated) lead Japan via Bednarek’s volley from close range. But Barcelona’s Yerry Mina scored his second goal in as many games with a strong header from a corner, placing the Colombians at the summit of Group F and Senegal back level on points, goal difference and goals scored with Japan. Both games finished 1-0.
The runners-up of Group H, dramatically, turned out to be Japan. They advanced over Senegal by the Fair Play rule as they picked up two less yellow cards than Senegal did over the three group matches. This was the first time ever that a team was eliminated based on fair play points. It’s also the first time since 1982 that no African side will be in the Round of 16. Heartbreaking.
JAPAN vs SENEGAL: HEAD-TO-HEAD
Goal Difference: 0-0
Goals Scored: 4-4
Goals Against: 4-4
Yellow Cards: 4-6
Senegal is the first team ever to be eliminated by the Fair Play rule; Japan is the first team ever to progress on fair play.
Aliou Cisse, Senegal coach
“I am very proud of my team today and I’m proud of their work. But Senegal have not qualified because we did not deserve to qualify. Such is life. Fair Play points are one of the rules and these rules have been established in the tournament regulations; we have to respect that. We would have preferred to be eliminated in another way but that’s the way it works and we knew that those were the regulations.”
Here’s how Group H finished:
In Group G, both games seemed to be a shot a bragging rights, particularly for Belgium. Eleven of the Red Devils’ twenty-three players currently play their club football in the Premier League and are good friends with all of the English players, so it was like a family day in the local park. With both team already through to the last 16, there was speculation that both Roberto and Martinez (BEL) and Gareth Southgate (ENG) set their teams up to finish 2nd in the group, a position that would allow them to evade the likes of Brazil, France, Argentina, Uruguay and Portugal on the “death” side of the bracket. But the “second choice” players on the pitch wanted to give their all and make a good impression to convince their respective managers that they’re good enough for the knockout round eleven. They weren’t going to settle for 2nd.
After a rather lackluster first half, Adnan Januzaj brought the game to life with a splendid curling shot past Jordan Pickford. Both sets of fans celebrated — I’m not sure if the English fans were celebrating because they loved the Belgian when he was in the Premier League or because they were happy about being in 2nd place. Either way, they seemed happy.
Michy Bastshuayi had some celebrations of his own as he took it upon himself to kick the ball against the post, but it cannoned right back at him and hit him the the face. At least he saw the comical side of it and explained himself on Instagram (as he normally does).
Have a look at it yourself: https://www.instagram.com/p/BklND5tlGrk/.
England, then, pressed their opponents for an equalizer but they weren’t clinical enough in front of goal to find one. The game finished 1-0.
Panama and Tunisia played for pride in the other Group G game, with both teams already eliminated. The Panama opened the scoring in the 33′ through a Meriah own-goal. But goals from Ben Youssef and another Premier League old-boy, Whabi Khazri, completed a delightful comeback win for the Africans.
WORLD CUP HISTORY-MAKER!
Tunisia’s Fakhreddine Ben Youssef scored the 2500th goal in the history of the FIFA World Cup.
Here’s how Group G finished:
With the group stage all wrapped up, we could now look forward to some knockout football. That means extra-time and penalties to avoid stalemates. England finishing 2nd proved to be beneficial to them as it put them on the “easier” side of the bracket. But they do face Colombia in the Round of 16, who won’t be any pushovers. All of the matches are mouth-watering, to say the least… and it all begins on Saturday!
Image Credit: FIFA™