Senegal qualifies for World Cup via contentious replay

Senegal soccer players celebrate their win over South Africa at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa on November 10, 2017. (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Senegal qualifies for World Cup via contentious replay

POLOKWANE, South Africa: Senegal seized the second chance it was given by FIFA to qualify for the World Cup on Friday, beating South Africa 2-0 in a replay of a game it lost first time round last year.
FIFA ordered the qualifier to be played again because of match-fixing by the referee in the initial match in November 2016. At the center of FIFA’s decision was a penalty given against Senegal for a non-existent handball that helped South Africa win 2-1 12 months ago.
Senegal used the contentious replay at the same stadium in Polokwane in northern South Africa as the annulled game to seal its place at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Sadio Mane was pivotal in both goals. He set up Diafra Sakho for the opener in the 12th minute and forced an own goal by South Africa defender Thamsanqa Mkhize in the 39th.
“Thank you, South Africa,” Mane said. “It was not an easy game for us but we kept pushing.”
As Senegal’s qualification was confirmed at the final whistle, the Senegalese players huddled together and bounced up and down in celebration. Coach Aliou Cisse knelt and held his arms up. Cisse was captain of the Senegal team that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2002, then only the second African team to get to the last eight.
That was the last and only time Senegal has made it to the World Cup.
Senegal joins Nigeria and Egypt as qualifiers for the 2018 tournament from Africa, so far. The last two qualifiers from Africa will be decided on Saturday. Either Tunisia or Congo and Morocco or Ivory Coast will make up Africa’s contingent in Russia.
Without FIFA’s intervention, Senegal’s group would have gone down to the last qualifiers next week, and all four teams would have still had a chance of qualifying. Burkina Faso and Cape Verde are the other two teams, both of whom were searching for a first-ever appearance at the World Cup.
Completing South Africa’s misery, it created more chances than Senegal in the replay but couldn’t make them count, hitting the crossbar in the first half and forcing a slew of saves from Senegal goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye.
“All that talk doesn’t mean anything because they beat us 2-0 and they go to Russia,” South Africa coach Stuart Baxter said.
FIFA’s unprecedented decision to order the replay and give Senegal another chance came in September after the world body found Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey guilty of match-fixing. Lamptey was banned for life after FIFA found he was probably manipulating the game for betting rings. There was no involvement from the South Africa or Senegal teams. But the decision to replay a game because of fixing caused serious discontent among the three other teams competing against Senegal for a World Cup place.
South Africa decried the decision to strip it of its victory as unfair while Burkina Faso appealed FIFA’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, calling it “an abuse of power.” CAS has not announced any decision regarding Burkina Faso’s appeal and it’s unclear what would happen if sport’s highest court upholds the appeal.
In that case, Senegal’s celebrations might be premature.


Toni Kroos dismisses Mesut Ozil's claims of racism in Germany World Cup camp

Updated 16 August 2018
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Toni Kroos dismisses Mesut Ozil's claims of racism in Germany World Cup camp

  • Germany still in turmoil after early World Cup exit and Ozil's claims of racism.
  • Loew's side set to face France next month in first match after Russia tournament.

Germany midfielder Toni Kroos says Mesut Ozil was “out of order” to make accusations of racism within the German set up as he retired from international football last month.
“Basically, Mesut is a long-serving national team player and deserved a better exit as a footballer,” Kroos, 28, told German daily Bild.
“I have played with Mesut for many years and know that he is a nice guy. But the way he retired was out of order.
“The proportion of his statement which was fair and justified was unfortunately overshadowed by a much higher proportion of nonsense.
“I think he himself knows that racism does not exist within the national team and the DFB.
“On the contrary, we are always committed to diversity and integration. Mesut was a good example of that, like many of our team mates.”
Ozil, 29, created a furor last month when he retired from international football in an explosive three-part statement in which he accused German FA (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel of racism.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” wrote Ozil, sparking a storm in Germany and triggering fierce debate about integration.
Ozil fell foul of German fans and was booed during pre-World Cup friendlies after he and fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan posed for pictures with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, raising questions about the pair’s loyalty to Germany.
Only a handful of Germany players have spoken about the saga, which captain Manuel Neuer described as “stressful” while Thomas Mueller said there is “no question of racism within the team.”
Real Madrid star Kroos says Arsenal midfielder Ozil, who like Gundogan has Turkish roots, was wrong to meet with Erdogan and then wait two months before breaking his silence.
“Mesut was criticized for the photo — and rightly so,” said Kroos. “And he missed the chance to explain himself.
“Nevertheless, he was completely supported by the coaching staff and the (national) team.
“Later he was — like the rest of us — criticized for the performance at the World Cup.
“The type of criticism was certainly not always at a good (justified) level — but then you have to deal with that as a player.”
In the first game since their World Cup debacle, Germany, who have plummeted to 15th in the FIFA rankings, will host world champions France in Munich on Sept. 6 in the newly-launched Nations League tournament.
Germany head coach Joachim Loew has promised sweeping changes and Kroos has resisted the urge to retire.
“Yes, I will continue until Euro 2020 and have set the big goal that we will be far more successful than last time,” said Kroos.
Fellow German midfielder Sami Khedira, 31, also ruled out retirement on Thursday and hopes for a call-up against France to make amends for the World Cup disaster.
“After a good season with Juventus, I played my two worst matches at the World Cup with full fitness. That was really bad,” Khedira, wrote on Instagram.
However, Kroos says the squad Loew selects on Aug. 29 must find the necessary drive that was so badly missing in Russia.
“We have to be greedy and more forceful again, as far as goal-scoring is concerned,” added Kroos.
“And we have to be more unpleasant to play against in terms of defense — without just defending.”
Loew welcomed Kroos’ decision to stay on.
“With his experience, class and personality, he is of course a key player who plays a very important role in our future plans — on and off the pitch,” reacted Loew on dfb.de.
However, the head coach has yet to comment on the Ozil fiasco.