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Colombia 1-2 Japan

Japan earn first ever win over Colombia

Only Japan's fifth World Cup victory

CNN  — 

It was a match which had plenty of talking points – a first red card of the World Cup, a penalty, a clever freekick and a historic first win for Japan over Colombia as the Blue Samurai beat the South American team 2-1 in their opening World Cup match.

In making the perfect start to their campaign, Japan became the first Asian country to defeat a South American team at a World Cup and ended the day leading one of the most intriguing groups in the tournament.

Senegal’s 2-1 victory over Poland in Group H’s second game of the day further boosted Japan’s hopes of progressing to the knockout stages – though Poland and Colombia will be expected to improve after disappointing on Tuesday.

Senegal’s success was the first victory by an African team at Russia 2018.

A sending off within minutes

Japan coach Akira Nishino talked before the match of his worry about the “psychological impact” of Monday’s earthquake which hit the Japanese city of Osaka during morning rush hour, killing at least five people.

On behalf of the team, midfielder and captain Makoto Hasebe extended his “heartfelt condolences” to those affected and admitted that players with loved ones in Japan’s second-largest city – goalkeeper Masaaki Higashigushi and midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi, play professionally in Osaka, while attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda was born in the area – “might have been negatively impacted” emotionally.

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But once the match started there was little time for contemplation as Japan, winless in their six previous World Cup games on European soil, went ahead in the opening minutes thanks to a Shinji Kagawa penalty.

Carlos Sanchez was deemed to have handled the ball and was subsequently red carded after just two minutes and 56 seconds – the second quickest sending off in World Cup history – and former Manchester United midfielder Kagawa capitalized from the spot.

Despite their numerical disadvantage Colomiba performed boldly in the first half especially and leveled just before the break when Juan Quintero cleverly placed a freekick underneath the wall, catching Eiji Kawashima by surprise. The Japan goalkeeper allowed the shot to creep underneath him and Colombia were back in the match.

The second half was all Japan, however, and in the 73rd minute Yuya Osako headed home a Honda corner to secure his team a historic win and only their fifth victory in World Cup history.

Yuya Osako of Japan heads the ball past David Ospina of Colombia.
Osako celebrates  after scoring his team's second goal.

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Atrocious Poland defending

The final match of the opening round was far from a classic, but the result did mean that none of the first 16 matches in this tournament ended goalless.

Senegal went ahead in the 37th minute when Poland’s Thiago Cionek inadvertently diverted Idrissa Gana Gueye’s hopeful long-range effort beyond the helpless Wojciech Szczesny and more calamitous defending led to Senegal’s second.

Grzegorz Krychowiak, from the center of the pitch, puzzlingly attempted a 50-yard back pass towards his goalkeeper but the onrushing Szczesny failed to gather and substitute defender Jan Bednarek looked on haplessly as Mbaye Niang sprinted ahead and side-foot home unopposed for his first international goal.

Poland complained that Niang was even on the pitch, but the Senegal forward had been given permission by the referee to return to the action, having left the pitch for treatment, and the Polish defense was caught unawares as he came on from the halfway line.

It was perhaps of no surprise that Poland, a team with the worst defensive record of all the European group winners, conceded but even with the the instrumental defender Kamil Glik absent through injury no-one would have expected such dreadful errors on a stage such as this.

Senegal, who had kept Poland captain Robert Lewandowski quiet throughout, deserved their victory and the players sunk to their knees as they celebrated replicating the feats of the team of 2002 which surprisingly beat France in their opening match of the 2002 World Cup.

Krychowiack halved the deficit with a late header from a freekick, but though it made for a nervy final minutes for Senegal the goal proved to be mere consolation.

Poland must now hope for a better result against Colombia if they are to retain hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.