Japan takes charge in Group H with win over Colombia


Photo Credit: Getty Images/FIFA

Japan 2-Colombia 1

An unpredictable 2018 World Cup took another wild turn on Tuesday in Saransk, Russia. Despite being the underdog and facing a tournament dark horse in Colombia Japan showed that they were not to be taken lightly, defeating the South American giants 2-1 to start Group H.

It didn’t take long for the most pivotal point in the match to happen. In just the third minute of the match Colombia was dealt a crushing blow when defender Carlos Sanchez opted to use his hand to deflect an incoming shot from Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa. Sanchez was sent off for his infraction and Kagawa converted on the ensuing penalty kick.

Using their experience in the midfield and playing with a man advantage, Japan dominated possession through the majority of the first half. Led by Kagawa and Makato Hasebe the Samurai Blue forced Colombia’s midfielders to chase, opening up space for their attack to get several quality shots on target. In the 15th minute, Kagawa found a surging Takashi Inui who hit a low chance far-post. Although Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina was not able to get a handle on it neither were his Japanese teammates to finish it off.

Colombia did create some chances of their own to get things level. At about the half hour mark, Colombia manager Jose Pekerman brought on midfielder Wilmar Barrios for Juan Cuadrado and moved Radmael Falcao up top. Falcao nearly made it 1-1 minutes later after ripping a shot from the edge of the eighteen yard box. However, Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima made the diving stop and ended the scoring chance.

Japan weren’t as fortunate in the 38th minute. After a controversial free kick was awarded in Colombia’s favor, Colombia midfielder Juan Quintero hit a low driving shot under the Japanese wall and past Kawashima to make things level. The goal was Quintero’s third for Colombia.

In the second half Japan began to assert itself more on the attack as the tired legs of Colombia began to show. In the 73rd minute they found the match-winner after Yuya Osako headed home a corner kick taken by substitute Keisuke Honda. The goal was Osako’s eighth for the Japanese national team.

While Colombia did threaten late, thanks in large part to the effort of substitute James Rodriguez, there were unable to solve the Japanese defense.

With the win, Japan (1-0-0, 3 points) not only move to the top of Group H but also earn the Asian Football Confederation’s first-ever win in a World Cup against a side from CONMEBOL. They will hope to continue their winning ways on Sunday against Senegal.

As for Colombia (0-1-0, 0 points) the loss doesn’t end their ambitions of making the knockout rounds but it certainly damages them. They will hope for better luck on Sunday when they face Poland.

Colombia- David Ospina, Oscar Murillo, Davinson Sanchez, Johan Mojica, Santiago Arias, Juan Quintero (James Rodriguez 59′), Carlos Sanchez, Jefferson Lema, Radmael Falcao, Jose Izquierdo (Carlos Bacca 70′), and Juan Cuadrado (Wilmar Barrios 31′)

Goal- Quintero (39′)

Yellow Cards- Barrios (66′) and Rodriguez (84′)

Japan- Eiji Kawashima , Gen Shoji, Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagamoto, Hiroki Sakai, Shinji Kagawa (Keisuke Honda 70′), Makoto Hasebe, Gaku Shibasaki (Hotaru Yamaguchi 80′), Yuya Osako (Shinji Okazaki 85′), Takashi Inui, and Genki Haraguchi

Goals-Kagawa (6′) and Osako (73′)

Yellow Card- Kawashima (84′)

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