Yerry Mina’s second-half header sent Colombia into a potential last-16 tie with England at the World Cup at the expense of Senegal, who lost out to Japan having received more yellow cards.
Senegal spent the final 20 minutes pushing for an equaliser which would have sent the African side through – Aliou Cisse’s side were level with Japan in terms of points and goal difference, but crucially not yellow cards.
Colombia had to win to be sure of their progress but with Poland beating Japan 1-0 in Volgograd, African representation at the World Cup was ended as Senegal failed to secure the point they needed.
The South Americans will face the runners-up from Group G, which will be either England or Belgium, in Moscow on Tuesday, while Japan await the winners in Rostov-on-Don on Monday.
Senegal thought they had been awarded a 16th-minute penalty after a tackle by Davinson Sanchez on Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, but the decision was correctly overturned by Champions League final referee Milorad Mazic, with VAR showing the Tottenham defender clearly touched the ball with what was a risky challenge.
Former England midfielder Danny Murphy, speaking on BBC One, called the tackle “the best of the tournament”.
Colombia’s chances were dealt a blow just after the half-hour mark as James Rodriguez was forced off due to injury – having missed the first game with a calf problem – four years to the day since his stunning volley against Uruguay in the 2014 World Cup.
But with Barcelona defender Mina’s second consecutive goal from Juan Quintero’s corner sending Colombia through as group winners, Senegal missed out having received two yellow cards more than Japan.
Senegal accept the ‘rules of the game’ – what they said
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse: “It’s the law of football. We didn’t qualify because we’ve earned more yellow cards, but I’m proud of my lads, they’ve worked hard for this tournament and I think we’ve showed we can have a bright future.
“The rules have been established by Fifa and we have to respect it, even though we would have liked to have been eliminated another way.
“I think the players knew all about it. I’m not going to ask my players to go on the pitch and try to avoid being issued yellow cards. Football is a contact game.”
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman: “There is no magic formula to football and one single answer to why one team beats another. I think we worked the set piece 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 goal scoring opportunities.
“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 Radamel Falcao. 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.”