June 24, 2018 / 7:51 PM / in 24 days

Cisse points finger at defense after 2-2 draw with Japan

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Senegal coach Aliou Cisse criticized his team for letting Japan equalize twice in their World Cup Group H game on Sunday and said he expected more from central defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sane.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group H - Japan vs Senegal - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 24, 2018 Senegal coach Aliou Cisse gestures during the match REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

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,” said Cisse.

“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 quarter-finals 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 analyzing the less than top-drawer performances of his key players.

Mane had been more impressive than in the 2-1 win against Poland but Cisse said: “Yes, of course he can do better.”

And he also expressed worry about the degree to which Japanese striker Yuya Osako had been 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, who remain joint top of the group with four points, play Colombia on Thursday and still have an excellent chance of reaching the last 16.

Striker Mane told reporters: “To be honest, we are all disappointed. Of course there was a way for us to win the match and we didn’t do it.

“It’s important to have that point and we have a decisive game coming up. We’re going to try and manage this and extract the positives, in order to qualify for the last 16.”

Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Ian Chadband

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