Jose Pekerman admits Colombia had to ride their luck against Senegal
Colombia now face England on Tuesday.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman admitted his side had been fortunate after a 1-0 win against Senegal sealed their place in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Defender Yerry Mina headed home the decisive goal from a 74th-minute corner to ensure Colombia finished top of Group H after Japan’s 1-0 defeat to Poland.
Los Cafateros will now play England, who finished second behind Belgium in Group G, on Tuesday.
Senegal, who needed only a draw to progress, became the first nation to bow out of a World Cup on the fair play rule.
“There is no magic formula to football and one single answer to why one team beats another,” Pekerman told a press conference.
“I think we worked the set-piece (which led to the goal) very well and that was not a coincidence as we have players who are excellent with their feet and with their head.
“But there were also some very worrying moments, especially in the first half, when Senegal played very well and it was tough for us to maintain our identity.
“We managed to defend successfully though, and they didn’t create many goalscoring opportunities.”
Senegal had a first-half penalty overruled after Davinson Sanchez’s challenge on Sadio Mane had been referred to the Video Assistant Referee.
Serbian referee Milorad Mazic initially pointed to the spot, but changed his mind after the video replay showed Tottenham defender Sanchez had made contact with the ball first.
“The match was tough because we couldn’t get the necessary control in central midfield to enable us to feed the right kind of balls to Falcao,” Pekerman added.
“This was a very even group and you see that with Senegal, who had a very good tournament, going home.
“There was a lot of tension in the air today and, in that regard, I think my team did very well.”
Senegal paid a high price for not cashing in on their dominant spells, particularly in the first half, as they finished level on points, goal difference and goals scored with Japan.
But coach Aliou Cisse had no complaints at the manner of his side’s exit.
“I’m very proud of my team and I’m proud of their work,” Cisse told a press conference. “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.”
In a game of very few chances, Senegal looked the more likely side to break the deadlock before Mina’s thumping header.
“I feel we could have scored in the first half and I think we controlled the match quite well,” Cisse added.
“I’m just disappointed for my team, for this generation and for these players who fight every single day for our country.
“I will continue to encourage them and to be with them because I think we can expect many more good things from them in the future.”