Senegal coach Aliou Cisse bemoaned defensive lapses as his side exited the World Cup after a comprehensive defeat by England on Sunday, but admitted they had been thoroughly outplayed by a much stronger team.
The 3-0 loss at the Al Bayt Stadium in the last 16 was a sobering lesson for the African champions, who had early chances but were always chasing the game.
“We have worked for years to be African champions but now we were up against one of the top five teams in the world and I think you saw the difference tonight,” said Cisse, still struggling with the cold that had seen him miss training in the two days leading up to the match.
“We were playing a very good England team and you saw that in the challenges and their physical strength. Plus we weren’t as good as we should have been.”
Cisse said defence had traditionally been one of his side’s strengths and he was therefore surprised by slips that allowed England to score at vital junctures of the game.
“Our strength has always been defence, we don’t often concede goals, and certainly not three in a match. That was a surprise for me because defence is usually where we can make the difference.
“After the first goal it was tough for us and then we let the second in just before half-time. The third was key.”
The 46-year-old Cisse, who has been Senegal coach since 2015 and recently signed a contract extension, said he would now reflect on his future.
“We need to take the lessons and think about them. It’s an ongoing piece. We’ve been working hard to get to this level.”
But he said African football was continuing to progress.
“It’s improving all the time. You don’t win the World Cup overnight. We see that African infrastructure is improving and the federations are training coaches. We need more technical directors, improved refereeing, but our countries are working on these improvements. It cannot be done overnight.
“Mistakes have been made in the past but Africa now has the right policies in place. We cannot stop now if we want to win this tournament one day."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)