Japan make history with win over 10-man Colombia

Wednesday, 20 Jun, 2018

Group H always looked like the most unpredictable at this World Cup, and so it felt appropriate that its opening match saw underdogs Japan beat favorites Colombia, thanks to goals either side of halftime from Shinji Kagawa and Yuya Osako.

Yuya Osako won a bouncing ball to begin a sequence that led to the red card and the penalty.

The Group H favourites suffered a nightmarish start to their campaign when Sanchez blocked Shinji Kagawa's shot with his arm after just two minutes and 56 seconds, prompting the referee to brandish the first straight red card for handball at a World Cup since Luis Suarez was sent off against Ghana in 2010.

Carlos Sanchez was dismissed for handball as Japan won the penalty from which Shinji Kagawa gave them the lead and, although Juan Quintero levelled, Yuya Osako headed the victor after the break.

A goal and a man down, Colombia faced an almighty task to fight their way back into the contest.

Yuya Osako's 73rd-minute victor was a huge relief for the Japanese, who were thumped 4-1 by Colombia four years ago during a miserable campaign in which they failed to register a single win.

Japan became the latest side to pull off an upset at the World Cup, joining Mexico, Switzerland and Iceland in earning surprising results.

Radamel Falcao missed out four years ago through injury but scored 19 in Ligue 1 for Monaco and will be keen to dovetail with James Rodriguez.

Jonathan Evans adapted this story based on the Associated Press news report.

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After a frantic first half, the game slowed in the second but Osako burst into the Colombia box and drew a save from David Ospina with a tricky close-range shot that the Arsenal goalkeeper parried away.

Despite finally retaking the lead, the final minutes were not without incident, a last-ditch sliding block in the box by Osako on Rodriguez allowing Japan to hold their lead and move on to their second Group H match against Senegal on Sunday with three points in the bag.

"To score a goal at the World Cup has been a dream for me since I was little, so I was extremely happy", said the match-winner.

Japan were back to their technical best in the second half, maintaining possession before they were rewarded with a second goal from a Keisuke Honda corner.

"Our players were aggressive from the start and I think that worked very well for us".

Although Sanchez recovered from that early mistake and improved as the game went on, there was a bit of shakiness about him throughout the entire 90 minutes.

Colombia were awarded the questionable free kick when Makoto Hasebe and Falcao clashed trying to get their heads to a 50-50 ball.

Colombia came out on top 4-1 when these sides last met in a World Cup group match four years ago, but there only looked like being one victor on the basis of the second half. The 32-year-old sent his corner from the left side curling and dipping past the Colombia defenders into the path of the flying Osako.