Japan secured their first World Cup victory on European soil as Yuya Osako’s header earned a 2-1 win over 10-man Colombia in Saransk.
Jose Pekerman’s side suffered the worst possible start after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for handling Osako’s goalbound shot with Shinji Kagawa on hand to calmly slot the resulting penalty (6).
But Colombia responded well to the setback to deservedly equalise through Juan Quintero’s clever free-kick under the wall (39).
Japan were the dominant side in the second period and after David Ospina had twice been forced into good saves, Osako rose to head in the winning goal (73) to spark emotional scenes both on the bench and in the stands of the Mordovia Stadium.
Colombia: Ospina (6), Murillo (6), Arias (6), Mojica (6), D. Sanchez (5), C. Sanchez (3), Cuadrado (5), Lerma (5), Quintero (6), Izquierdo (5), Falcao (6).
Subs: Barrios (6), Rodriguez (5), Bacca (5)
Japan: Kawashima (6), Shoji (6), Nagatomo (7), H. Sakai (7), Yoshida (7), Shibasaki (6), Haraguchi (6), Kagawa (7), Inui (7), Hasebe (6), Osako (8).
Subs: Honda (7), Yamaguchi (6), Okazaki (6)
Man of the match: Yuya Osako
Japan’s opening World Cup game in Group H was played against a sombre backdrop following the strong earthquake in Osaka that has killed at least three people and injured more than 200, but Akira Nishino’s side will now be hopeful of qualifying for the knockout stages following this courageous display.
Japan were handed a slice of good fortune after Sanchez was correctly dismissed for using his arm to keep out Osako’s shot after Ospina had done well to initially deny Kagawa.
Referee Damir Skomina didn’t hesitate in brandishing the first red card of this World Cup – the second fastest in the tournament’s history – and Kagawa showed composure to handle the long delay and send the Arsenal goalkeeper the wrong way.
James Rodriguez was forced to make do with a place on the substitutes’ bench after suffering from muscle fatigue but Jose Izquierdo was handed a surprise start.
Shinji Okazaki also was named on the bench after a calf complaint but Shinji Kagawa was handed a start.
Takashi Inui and Osako both missed glorious chances to extend Japan’s lead as both were off target with right-footed shots, and Colombia made them pay for such wastefulness as Quintero embarrassed Eiji Kawashima with his free-kick that trickled under his wall and over the line despite his desperate attempts to keep it out.
Colombia, having wrestled a foothold in the game, rarely threatened in the second half as Japan took control. Osako forced Ospina into another save low to his left after rolling Davinson Sanchez before Hiroki Sakai was denied by another sprawling save from the Colombian keeper.
From the ensuing corner, Osako rose above Santiago Arias to flick his header in off the far post. Colombia brought on James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca in a desperate bid to salvage a point but Japan held on for a first win at the World Cup since beating Denmark in 2010.
- Japan have become the first ever Asian side to defeat South American opposition at the World Cup (P18 W1 D3 L14).
- This is the first World Cup tournament in which as many as four South American teams have failed to win their opening game since 1974.
- None of Colombia’s 19 games at the World Cup have ended goalless. The only nations that have played more games in the competition without recording a nil-nil are USA (33) and Austria (29).
- Keisuke Honda is the first player from an Asian nation to provide an assist in three different World Cup tournaments since 1966.
- There have been more direct free-kick goals scored in just 15 games at World Cup 2018 (four) than there were in the entire 2014 edition (three), with Colombia’s Juan Quintero netting the fourth of this year’s tournament.
- Juan Quintero became the first player to score in two different World Cup tournaments for Colombia (2014 and 2018).
- Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez was red carded after two minutes and 56 seconds – the second fastest shown in World Cup history, after Jose Alberto Batista for Uruguay vs Scotland in 1986 (54 seconds).
Man of the match – Yuya Osako
Osako was handed a start after Shinji Okazaki was unable to fully shake off a calf problem, and despite missing an excellent chance in the first-half, he was involved in both of Japan’s goals, including his fine match-winning header.
The striker is joining Bundesliga outfit Werder Bemen from Cologne this summer, and having caused Davinson Sanchez plenty of problems all afternoon, they will be happy to have already got that piece of business over the line. Okazaki may have to wait for his start.
Japan continue their quest for qualification from Group H when they travel to the Central Stadium in Yekaterinburg to face Senegal on Sunday (4pm BST kick-off). Colombia play Poland on the same day at the Kazan Arena at 7pm BST.