Japan‘s World Cup Starts With Big Win Over Colombia

Japan wore down a Colombia team reduced to 10 men and won a frantic World Cup match, 2-1, on Tuesday in Saransk. James Rodriguez, Colombia’s star, who is nursing a leg injury, came on in the second half but could not find a goal to save his team.

• A hand ball in the third minute cost Colombia dearly when Shinji Kagawa converted the penalty kick. It also forced Colombia to play with 10 men the rest of the way.

• Juan Quintero scored on a free kick later in the first half to equalize for short-handed Colombia.

• Japan took the lead for good on a header by Yuya Osako in the 72nd minute.

Andrew Das: That’s an enormous result for Japan, and it’s really scrambles the group — and perceptions. Japan is in its sixth straight World Cup but has long been seen as a rider more than a driver. It has advanced to the round of 16 only twice — on home soil in 2002 and again in 2010 — but promptly went right out. This victory, over a good Colombia team many thought could win the group, just put Poland and Senegal on notice.

World Cup reading: Mexico’s captain, Rafael Márquez, is on the U.S. Treasury blacklist.

Here’s how Japan beat Colombia:

90’ + 4: Colombia Pressing

Colombia is doing everything it can to push the ball forward. A couple desperation shots make it interesting, but no real threat.

90’: Stoppage Time

Five minutes of stoppage time. Colombia throws everyone forward. But Japan clears the ball away again. Tick. tick. tick.

89’: Colombia Still Battling

A series of throw-ins leads to a series of headers from Colombia, who are absolutely frantic at this point. None of those headers leads to a shot on goal, however.

87’: Frustration Sets In

Yellow for James Rodriguez for a challenge from behind. That’s not what Colombia wants, especially now that it looks like it will need 4 or 6 points from its last two games.

85’: Time Running Out for Colombia

Japan is killing the game off effectively. Time is Japan’s friend and Colombia’s enemy. When Colombia finally does get the ball it passes it away.

81’: Japan Keeps It

Japan regained possession and started an extended game of keepaway. Twenty passes, 30, maybe 40.

79’: Colombia Goes on the Attack

Falcao got the ball on a break, but two Japanese defenders closed him down and Japan dealt with the ensuing corner. Then James got a clear shot on goal, but it was deflected over! Another corner and Colombia is pouring it on.

73: GOAL! Japan Takes the Lead

Japan was dominating and got their goal. It’s striker Yuya Osako with the header off the Honda corner. Osaka finds the inside of the post. Textbook score and Colombia finally paid for its lack of numbers. Now it will be up to James and Falcao to come up with something for Colombia.

72’: There’s Honda

Honda fired at goal almost immediately, drawing a save, although the shot would have been just wide.

69’ Kagawa Off

Japan’s penalty scorer, Kagawa is out. Keisuke Honda is in. Honda scored in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Colombia counters, bringing on Bacca for Izquierdo.

67’: Colombia Scrambles to Survive

Japan zipped the ball into and around the Colombia penalty area for an endless stretch. Nervous moments for Colombia, which hasn’t been able to clear, much less mount a scoring challenge of its own.

61’: Rodriguez Busy Right Away

James Rodriguez got right into the action, passing, dribbling and showing no obvious signs of injury.

60’: Free Kick Goes Wide

A free kick for Japan, and Yoshida jumped the highest. But he headed wide. The attack continues …

59’: James Rodriguez Checks In

James Rodriguez! Colombia’s superstar checks in, injury and all. This could be a huge moment for Colombia, which has struggled this half.

57’: Japan Fires Away

Inui got free on the left, and he fired a curler that drew a diving save. Colombia’s goalkeeper, David Ospina, is holding his own, but it’s all Japan right now.

54’: Japan’s Numbers Starting to Show

Another run by Japan. Osako forced a save on a close-in shot. Japan’s advantage in numbers is really telling the story.

51’: Corner to Japan

Yoshida got it with his back to goal but was muscled off the ball. Japan the better start here.

49’: Japan Looks to Run

Japan comes out running. Nagatomo puts a good ball in the box, but it’s dealt with easily by Colombia’s defense.

46’: Second Half Begins

The second half kicks off. Halftime talking points centered on the Colombia goal. Did Falcao dive to earn the free kick (Kind of?) Did the wall make a huge mistake by jumping? (Clearly.)

Halftime: 1-1 After a Busy First Half

An eventful half ends. Colombia has the momentum, but may start to tire in the second half with 10 men. And will the Colombians bring out James Rodriguez at some point?

For a game with so much incident and so many momentum swings, the stats ended up curiously even. Possession was 52-48 in favor of Japan, shots were even at 5-5, corners were 2-1 Japan.

Andrew Das: Japan’s early lead was a surprise, since African and Asian teams have won only one game at the World Cup. That was Iran, but Japan over Colombia would be much bigger than that.

43’: Who’s the Favorite Now?

Colombia, the prematch favorite, which just used its attacking might to equalize? Or Japan with a man advantage? It’s close.

39’: GOAL! Colombia Levels

Juan Quintero of Colombia tied it up! It was a much more dangerous free kick, just outside the box. The wall jumped, but the shot went low, slid under them, then just trickled into the corner just as Japan’s keeper fell on it.

Andrew Das: Japan protested, but goal line technology proves its value again. Though anyone with two eyes could see that was across the line. All square.

36’: Falcao Busy

Besides working hard, Falcao is also spending a lot of time on the ground. He pirouetted in a fall to win a free kick. But the forest of Japanese defenders foil it. Update: Falcao fell down again.

33’: Falcao, Just Short

Falcao broke for goal onside and between two defenders, then leaped athletically to get a toe on a pass. But it went right to the keeper, again. Falcao is working hard and in the absence of James Rodriguez is going to be the focal point of Colombia’s comeback bid. Of course, Japan knows this and will keep him well covered.

31’: Japan Wastes a Good Chance

Osako stole the ball near the Colombian goal with an open look, but launched a ball to nowhere. Was that supposed to be a shot or a cross? Either way a possible chance wasted.

26’: Japan’s Advantage

11 may not seem like a whole lot more than 10. But at this level, the man-advantage is enormous. It will mean more space to work in, more time on the ball, more comfort in defense. Japan will enjoy this advantage.

24’: Can Columbia Press for 70 Minutes?

Colombia is pressing a deliberate Japan to try to get possession. This is going to really tire the team out over the next 70 minutes.

22’: Japan Slows Down

Japan is advancing the ball at a glacial pace. You can’t blame them. They have the lead and have superior numbers. Why push anything at this point?

18’: Cuadrado Loses One-on-One

Juan Cuadrado is a dangerous player on the wing, and he tried to show off some of that skill one-on-one against Nagatomo at the end line. But the Japanese defender is up to the challenge and dispossesses him.

14’: Japan Threatens Again

Japan took advantage of their superior numbers and developed an opportunity against an overstretched defense. But Takashi Inui went wide.

Colombia then makes some noise on the counterattack, but it leads nowhere.

12’: Falcao Makes a Run

Colombia’s Falcao beat the defense and got to a through ball with a sliding shot. Right to Japan’s goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima though.

10’: Short-Handed Colombia in Trouble Now

Colombia must attack now and must do it with 10 men. This is a dire situation, especially with 80 minutes to go.

5’: GOAL! Japan Scores on Penalty Kick

Disaster for Colombia. Osako raced past the Colombian defense and was in alone on goal. Ospina made the save and it rebounded to Kagawa who was following the play. His shot was blocked, but Carlos Sanchez used his hand! Red card for Sanchez. The penalty is taken by Kagawa. Low and steady into the net.


Japan in blue, Colombia in yellow. With James Rodriguez out, Colombia will turn to its captain, Falcao, for its goals. Falcao is 32, but playing in his first World Cup. He was injured in 2014 and Colombia missed the three Cups before that. He has 29 goals for Colombia in his career, the record.

Colombia’s Starting Lineup

Bad news for Colombia: James Rodriguez will not start. He has a leg muscle strain.

1. Ospina

3. Murillo

4. Arias

6. C. Sanchez

9. Falcao

11. Cuadrado

16. Lerma

17. Mojica

20. Quintero

21. Izquierdo

23. D Sanchez

Japan’s Starting Lineup

Who to watchDortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa is the most proven performer, but a key vet could be Keisuke Honda, 31, who at one time played for Milan, but now plays in Mexico.

1. Kawashima

3. Shoji

5. Nagatomo

7. Shibasaki

8. Haraguchi

10. Kagawa

14. Inui

15. Osako

17. Hasebe

19. Sakai

22. Yoshida


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