The hopes of the entire African continent were pinned on the Teranga Lions of Senegal. Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Nigeria had all lost out in their group stages and Senegal was the last hope at Russia 2018.
They already had a decent tally of points and only needed to avoid a draw and finish second on the group. But they played a 0-1 loss to Colombia and then tied with Japan on points.
Now every football fan knows when teams have the same points, the goal difference is the difference: teams who have scored more goals than conceded go through. Here’s where it got bizarre: Senegal and Japan had the same goal difference- 0. As it stood, the FIFA officials decided to settle it with an obscure ‘fair play rule’.
According to the rule, teams are deducted points for yellow cards received during the tournament. Compared to Japan’s three yellow cards, Senegal had received three bookings since the competition started. And that’s how they were eliminated from the world cup.
It is the first time such method would be used to decide the winner of a match. It is also the first time since 1982 that an African country will not play in the second round of the FIFA World Cup.
By the way, there’s an ongoing joke that a sixth African country is still in the world cup, France. Out of the twenty-three-man team, fourteen are of African heritage. Les Bleus have always had a healthy roster of Africans in their squads.