YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Senegal had hoped to bully Japan in their World Cup match in Yekaterinburg on Sunday but after being held to a 2-2 draw the African side conceded they were outfoxed by their opponents' movement and technical ability.
Senegal, who beat Poland in their campaign opener, twice held the lead but were pegged back by the Japanese, with the result leaving the teams tied at the top of Group H.
“The problem was that there was a lot of movement on the part of the Japanese. We played better at times than in the match against Poland,” said midfielder Alfred Ndiaye.
"The Japanese played with four or five players in their axis and they swapped continuously. It was difficult for us to handle the situation.
“I think we came up against a very good Japanese team. We must pay tribute to them. It was a pretty even game.”
Coach Aliou Cisse said Senegal had sought to pressure Japan from the kick off with a rugged approach and it seemed to work early on, forcing Japan into errors and helping Sadio Mane to an 11th minute goal.
"But as soon as we gave them some space it became difficult for us. They are a very technical team with such good quality in that respect," he added.
Senegal play Colombia in their last group game in Samara on Thursday looking to book a place in the second round. On their only other appearance at the World Cup they reached the quarter-finals in 2002.
“We are a little disappointed with the result, because our goal was to win and secure our qualification,” added Ndiaye after Sunday’s clash at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
“But, if you think about it, we still stay at the top of the group and we know we have our own destiny in our hands. We’ve already got four points. That’s not a bad thing.
"Maybe this point against Japan will make all difference in the end.”
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Nizhny Novgorod; Editing by Peter Rutherford)