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Senegal are still the only team to be knocked out of the World Cup on Fair Play points

Jack Kenmare

| Last updated 

Senegal are still the only team to be knocked out of the World Cup on Fair Play points

We were just minutes away from another Fair Play tiebreaker on Wednesday night when Poland and Mexico could not be separated in Group C.

For those unfamiliar, the Fair Play tiebreaker was introduced by FIFA at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The controversial rule comes into play when teams are tied on points, differential, and goals scored during the group stage.

Basically, the winner is decided on fair-play conduct points – a system that rewards teams with a better disciplinary record.


Each club starts on zero points and a yellow card takes one point off your total.

An indirect red [the result of being shown a second yellow card] is three points off and a straight red is four points. If you get a yellow and a direct red it’ll be five points off your total.

At the full-time whistle, Mexico received seven yellow cards throughout the group stages, while Poland picked up five – meaning Czesław Michniewicz's would have progressed based on their better disciplinary record.

But a 95th minute goal from Saudi Arabia forward Salem Aldawsari meant the Fair Play tiebreaker didn't come into play as Poland had a better goal difference, despite a 2-0 defeat to Argentina.

Image credit: Alamy
Image credit: Alamy

Back in 2018, Senegal became the first team to be eliminated by the Fair Play tiebreaker rule.

Both Senegal and Japan lost their final match of group play, and the two were tied on points, goal differential and goals scored.

They also tied 2-2 when they played each other but because Senegal had two more yellow cards than Japan, Aliou Cisse's side were eliminated and Japan advanced to the knockout round thanks to fair-play points obtained.

“It’s the rules of the game,” Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said afterwards. “They’ve been established by FIFA and we have to respect it, even though we would have liked to have been eliminated another way.”

Senegal, meanwhile, have progressed to the knockout stages of this winter's World Cup after wins against Ecuador and hosts Qatar. They will face England in the last 16.

Thoughts on the rule? Let us know in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Senegal, Football World Cup, Japan, Poland

Jack Kenmare
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