YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - Senegal coach Aliou Cisse criticized his team for letting Japan equalize twice in their World Cup Group H match on Sunday and said he expected more from central defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sane.
In an exciting but error-strewn 2-2 draw, the Africans went ahead through Sadio Mane and dominated for much of the first half until Takashi Inui replied with a curling shot for Japan. After the break, though, Japan did most of the attacking.
“Of course there are regrets but we must say we didn’t see a great Senegal team tonight compared to the previous match against Poland,” Cisse said.
“Despite the fact we were leading twice, what is annoying for me is the two goals we conceded,” he added, accusing his players of lacking rigor and concentration.
“All I know is at this level of competition with the players we have today, who are world-class, these were avoidable goals. That is crystal clear.”
Though he did not elaborate on the lapses, the comment was particularly true of the Keisuke Honda tap-in that made it 2-2, after full back Moussa Wague had put Senegal ahead for the second time.
“The best team on the pitch was Japan, we have to admit,” said Cisse, who as captain led Senegal to the quarterfinals in 2002. “We were getting the ball and then we were losing it . . . I thought there were a lot of technical errors, too many.”
Nor did he hold back from shining a light on the less than top-drawer performances of his key players.
Mane was more impressive than in the 2-1 win against Poland, but Cisse said: “Yes, of course he can do better.”
He also expressed worry about the degree to which Japanese striker Yuya Osako was able to put pressure on his defense.
“Whether it’s Sane or Koulibaly, they’re great players. I think they were perhaps less good today,” he said. “We’re going to work on that. Koulibaly needs to show his qualities, and Sane the same.”
Senegal, which remains tied with Japan at the top of the group with four points, faces Colombia on Thursday and still has an excellent chance of reaching the last 16.
“It’s important to have that point and we have a decisive game coming up,” Mane said. “We’re going to try and manage this and extract the positives, in order to qualify for the last 16.”