Senegal earned a thrilling 2-1 win over Ecuador in their make-or-break final group match to secure a spot in the World Cup round of 16.
The Lions of Teranga entered the tie knowing nothing but a win would do for their aspirations after picking up just three points from their first two games.
Only a point would have been enough for La Tri to go through, but it was not to be, and Aliou Cisse’s Senegal could not have hoped for a better time to pick up their first win over a South American side at football’s showpiece event.
Meanwhile, group favourites the Netherlands finished off already eliminated Qatar 2-0 to ensure they progressed as group winners.
Let’s look at the summary of results on the final matchday in Group A.
Ecuador 1-2 Senegal
Ecuador were in pole position to qualify heading into the game, knowing that a point would earn them a place in the round of 16.
However, somewhat surprisingly, they were well off the pace in the first half. Senegal, needing a victory to advance, started on the front foot and came close to opening the scoring after just three minutes.
A flowing Senegal move presented a chance for Idrissa Gueye to put his country in front, but the Everton man fired just wide of the right post from inside the area.
Ismaila Sarr was a constant threat down the left flank for Senegal in the first half, and the Watford winger earned his team a penalty after being brought down by Piero Hincapie.
With qualification potentially resting on his shoulders, he made no mistake by slotting the ball into the right corner to put his side in front just before half-time.
Although they trailed, Ecuador knew they only needed one goal to put themselves back in the driving seat, and after struggling to establish a foothold in the game, they eventually found a way through.
In the 67th minute, Felix Torres headed a corner into the path of an unmarked Moises Caicedo, and the Brighton & Hove Albion man diverted it in from close range to put his side back in with a shout.
However, their celebrations were cut short just three minutes later when a Senegal free-kick into the area found its way to Kalidou Koulibaly, and the Chelsea man rounded off a real captain’s performance by powering it home to restore Senegal’s lead.
Ecuador were left scrambling for a point, and they pushed relentlessly for an equaliser in the closing stages, but Senegal held on to reach the knockout stage for the first time since 2002.
Netherlands 2-0 Qatar
The Netherlands needed just one point to progress against an already eliminated Qatar, who have cemented their place in history as the worst-performing host nation of all time.
As expected, the Oranje stepped straight onto the front foot. Daley Blind was the first to test Meshaal Barsham early on by forcing him to save at close range before Cody Gakpo broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.
The forward drove into the area before finding the bottom-right corner for his third goal of the tournament.
Qatar’s response was flaccid at best. They showed no real attacking endeavour to trouble the Dutch, and Louis van Gaal’s side finished them off four minutes after the restart.
Barsham made a terrific save to keep out Memphis Depay, but his Barcelona teammate Frenkie De Jong latched on to the rebound for an easy tap-in to extend his side’s lead.
The Netherlands cruised to victory, sealing their place at the top of Group A. They will now await the identity of Group B runners-up, who they will face in the round of 16.
- ‘The boys gave everything’ – Graham Potter assesses Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa
- Jurgen Klopp delivers damning assessment on Liverpool’s 4-1 defeat to Man City
- Preview: Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Barcelona will play at the Estadi Lluis Companys next season with Camp Nou renovation on the cards
- Harry Kane targeting a century of goals for England