How fair play rule tortured Japan, Senegal fans alike
- Confusion engulfed Senegal and Japan fans at the 2018 Moscow FIFA Fan Fest, at the last whistle of the Group H matches played concurrently on Thursday evening
- Colombians were the only lot whose qualification was certain after the hard fought 1-0 win over the Lions of Teranga, following their emphatic 3-0 victory over Poland in their second group tie
Jacob Icia in Moscow, Russia
Confusion engulfed Senegal and Japan fans at the 2018 Moscow FIFA Fan Fest, at the last whistle of the Group H matches played concurrently on Thursday evening.
Colombians were the only lot whose qualification was certain after the hard fought 1-0 win over the Lions of Teranga, following their emphatic 3-0 victory over Poland in their second group tie.
The fans had to quickly turn to the mobile phones to search online what the criteria for separating teams whose points, goals scored and conceded matched even, the case of Japan and Senegal.
However, it took time for them to get the answer, shown by facial expressions about 10 minutes to quarter an hour later.
“I don’t know whether to celebrate or to grieve. Nobody anticipated such an end that’s why we are all confused. A friend has just shown me on Twitter that Japan have qualified, but I don’t still understand the criteria,” a Senegalese fan Leopold Diarra told Citizen Digital.
As opposed to the usual cheer after the final whistle in such a setting, Japan fans relished their delayed carnival into the roads leading out of the Fan Fest, when it finally dawned to them the Blue Samurais were through.
“We (Japan) didn’t want that. I think it is one situation I would not love to experience anymore. It’s like a torture, when you are in the game but you don’t understand what a result means to you.
“I think we should just have beaten or drawn against Poland to avoid it. Yes we have made it but very narrowly, it’s even more painful to Senegal,” an emotional Japan fan Haruto Sora said.
While debate over suitability of the fair play rule continues, a section of Senegal fans believe they had a chance to avoid the fate. Having won 2-1 against top seed Poland in their opener, the fans feel the Aliou Cisse coached side should have made light of Japan to seal a knockout stage spot.
“I don’t know why we have fix ourselves to difficult situations that cannot favor us. We had a chance to beat Japan and qualify in the second match, but we led twice and surrendered it. Today (Thursday) you saw the referee denying us a clear penalty, then a funny principle eliminates us…” another Senegalese, Saliou Sokhna offered.
So close yet too far it was, but the curse of Africa, conceding late into matches silenced the Lions.
Interestingly, the five teams from Africa that have since bowed of the 21st edition of the biggest football fiesta lost or drew a crucial match in the last 15 minutes of their fixtures.
On Wednesday, Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo struck late in the 86th to assure Argentina a place in the last 16, sending Nigeria who needed just a pint packing.
In the first matches, both Egypt and Morocco were victims of late goals against Uruguay and Iran respectively.
Jose Giminez’s 89th minute goal denied the Pharaohs a share of spoils against Uruguay in the 1-0 loss that perhaps would have changed their fortunes in the tournament.
Aziz Bouhaddaouz scored an own goal in the extra time to hand Iran a win of a similar margin, rendering meaningless Morroco’s efforts in the entire clash.
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