For Sadio Mane, it was a wasted opportunity.
The Senegal striker scored the first goal in his team’s 2-2 draw with Japan on Sunday at the World Cup, so there was something to celebrate. But that doesn’t mean he was satisfied with the result.
“Frankly speaking, I think we are a bit disappointed. And that’s normal because there was a way to win this match,” Mane said. “We started this game well. … We were dangerous, but in the end we scored and they equalized.”
The 26-year-old Liverpool winger, playing in his first World Cup, was named man of the match, largely because of his goal.
A charging Mane found himself in the right place at the right time in the 11th minute, deflecting a missed shot by Youssouf Sabaly past Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to put Senegal ahead 1-0.
Although Japan equalized when Takashi Inui scored with a curling shot in the 34th minute, Mane was involved in the play that led to Moussa Wague’s goal in the 71st. Japan, however, earned the draw when substitute Keisuke Honda scored in the 78th.
Two preventable goals allowed, as far as Mane was concerned.
“There was a way for us to win the match and we didn’t do it,” Mane said. “We can’t underestimate the Japanese team that played very well. They managed to create quite a lot of opportunities and they scored twice. And now we have to admit it.”
Japan coach Akira Nishino said he thought his defenders did a “pretty good job” on Mane.
“But we were more concerned about him giving positive impact on other players, especially in the first half,” Nishino said. “We let him and the other players play freely a bit too much. But as a countermeasure against Sadio Mane I think we did pretty well.”
Japan began to play more aggressively in the midfield in the second half, forcing Senegal to attempt more passes from distance toward the box. That, in turn, also limited the touches for Mane as he tried to put his team in front one more time.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said Mane hasn’t played his best game at this year’s World Cup.
“A player like Mane, of course, is a player with a lot of expectations on our team,” Cisse said. “He is one of the players that is under the spotlight, so yes of course he can do better than what he is doing. I think he has to do better against Colombia. Hopefully he will be feeling better in his shoes, as we like to say.”
Now tied with Japan at the top of Group H with four points, Mane said his focus is centered on Colombia, which Senegal faces Thursday. Japan will play Poland.
“We have a decisive game coming up,” Mane said. “We’re going to try to manage this and extract the positive points to qualify for the last 16.”