Japan took advantage of Carlos Sanchez’s red card inside three minutes to get a deserved 2-1 win over Columbia in Group H.
The ex-Aston Villa man was given his marching orders for a professional foul which meant Columbia had to play 87 minutes with ten men.
Shinji Kagawa scored the resulting penalty and although Juan Quintero at the end of the first half, a lovely header from Yuya Osako gave Japan an unexpected victory.
This game as immediately about the action as it took just three minutes for Columbia’s game-plan to go out of the window. A mistake from Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez allowed Osako to race through and after his shot was saved by David Ospina, Kagawa’s follow-up effort was goal bound before it was blocked by the arm of Sanchez. It was an obvious handball and the referee was forced to give a penalty and send off the defensive midfielder.
Kagawa stepped up to take the penalty and the pressure was on the former Manchester United player. You wouldn’t have been able to tell as he effortlessly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan a vital lead, albeit a lead they were not expecting.
Despite the advantage, Japan failed to push on in the first half as Columbia did their best to react to their situation. Juan Cuadrado was shockingly hooked off, but they did pull level with just a minute to go in the first half. It came from a free-kick as Quintero stood over it, but fooled everyone as he swept the ball under the jumping wall past the goalkeeper, who couldn’t get near it before it crossed the line. It was a really clever free-kick and it meant the score was level at half-time.
The equaliser jolted Japan back into the right mind-set as they dominated the second period. Osako span away from Sanchez nicely to test Ospina with a drilled low effort and minutes later, the Arsenal goalkeeper was forced to keep out Takashi Inui’s curling effort as the Japanese piled on the pressure.
The pressure would pay off with 17 minutes left to play and it was a deserved winner from the impressive Osako. The striker was playing instead of the unfit Leicester City man Shinji Okazaki and took his chance with a man-of-the-match performance against the Columbians. The goal from a Keisuke Honda corner and Osako did incredibly well to flick a header in at the near post past the helpless Ospina.
It was a goal that Japan certainly merited, but it was nearly wiped away from them with three minutes. James Rodriguez burst into the box and looked like he would score with his trusty left-foot, but it was Osako who had got back to make an unlikely block. It was a moment that summed up his and Japan’s performance, while Columbia have made a nightmare start to the tournament.