Updated: Jun 30, 2018
Colombia-Senegal Match Report: Mr. Hyde gets by a worthy Senegalese side
People often asks me who I'm for, and I've finally gotten around to this answer: I like to see great soccer, and whomever is delivering that, I'm for. Sometimes I go into a game really wanting to see one side win, and come out wanting the other. I'm not really that partisan. And such was the case today, a desultory affair that deflated rather than elevated.
Senegal came out and really dominated play through the first half; it was hard to tell how much of this was Colombia's utter inability to be accurate or Senegal's stifling zonal press in midfield. Everton's Idris Gueye was vacuuming up balls and Colombia could barely find Quintero or James. Meanwhile, Carlos Sanchez was returned to the pitch but really plodded about, sort of Khedira 2.0. James was taken off at 30 minutes (assume it's the calf), but I can't say that this was the difference. Instead we got a lot of bad Cuadrado. Senegal played Mane up top, as many had hoped he would, and he was troubling, ultimately taken down in the box by D. Sanchez. The tackle was both brilliant and nearly impossible to see as anything but a foul (and maybe red) by the referee; only the angle from the other side showed it was fair play, and VAR worked as intended. I have the sense that someone must have chimed in with a VAR=Versus Africa Recording or something along those lines. Again, the right call here but has hit helped an African team once?
It was looking all good for Senegal, who were squeezing the mids, keeping the ball off Falcao, and the wingbacks (who were excellent throughout for Senegal) winning their battles with the dangerous Colombian flank players. And then Mina waltzes up and thumps a header in. The kid delivered. Senegal then turned up the heat and created a few decent chances, and Colombia kept giving them the ball. I don't think they connected more than 5 passes in a row during the whole game that weren't majority-centerback passes. It was hard to root for them, a Mr. Hyde performance light years away from the Dr. Jekyll masterpiece a few years ago. Who stole my Colombian team?
Senegal were bright, energetic, cohesive, balanced and sharp, a blend of youth and experience, a star in Mane who sublimated himself to a team ethic, an excellent backline, and a few poor moments. They were not terribly clinical in attack, a weakness for sure, and better defending against Japan would have saw them through. But they were the more enjoyable team today, and given the sporting quality that I saw in both the Poland and Colombia games, it's doubly bitter that they go out for Fair Play. Coach Sisse and his team deserved more. Hopefully we see them again--this is not a young team but Senegal is a hotbed for talent. Their U-20s went out to Mexico in 2017 knockout round, so hopefully this is the first building block in a big run.