Colombia-Japan, a bitter debut in Group H for the Cafeteros. An unexpected loss, which put the continuation of their World Cup experience seriously at risk. The careless Colombians lost 1-2 to Japan in Saransk, making their path towards the Round of 16 extremely complicated. The match took a clear direction after less than three minutes, with the expulsion of Carlos Sanchez due to a handball in his box, and the subsequent penalty conversion by Shinji Kagawa.
Juan Quintero’s equaliser in the 39th minute put Colombia back on track, but an additional goal by Yuya Osako eventually awarded the Samurais three well-deserved points – and the first-time-ever World Cup win for an Asian side over a South American. Colombia’s Argentinian coach José Pekerman has much to be forgiven for, some of his technical decisions being difficult to explain.
With his team forced to play with one man less for 87 minutes, Pekerman pulled out Juventus’ midfielder Juan Cuadrado, replacing him with Wilmar Barrios. A questionable decision indeed, considering that Jose Izquierdo was instead left on the pitch, and ended up giving no contribution whatsoever to his side.
Another decision open for criticism was the choice of his center back line, with the Davinson Sanchez-Oscar Murillo couple appearing hesitant from the very first minute. It is likely that in the next match against Poland, we will see Cristian Zapata retake one of the center back spots. On top of that, the late entrances of James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca ended up being useless, if not detrimental.
On the other side of the pitch, Japan earned some kudos. Coach Akira Nishino’s men played a clever and organized game. Their defense, built upon Maya Yoshida, left minimal space to such a powerful striking force as the Colombian’s. Their flank players were dynamic and resourceful, especially Takashi Inui on the left side. Kagawa scored the penalty that gave Japan the lead, but did little more than that, whereas the match-winner Okako proved to be a good forward.
Very impactful for the Japanese was also the entrance of Keisure Honda: Milan’s former midfielder put some order among his lines, and had the merit of shooting the corner kick from which Okako’s winning goal originated.
Both teams will come back into the pitch next Sunday, June 24. Colombia will face Poland in a match which already looks like an all-in play out. Japan will square off with Senegal, a match between the two unexepected winners of the first two games of Group H.
June 19, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool H
SCORERS: 6′ Kagawa (J, pen.), 39′ Quintero (C), 73′ Osako (J)
|COLOMBIA (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Arias, D. Sanchez, Murillo, Mojica; Lerma, C. Sanchez; Cuadrado (31′ Barrios), Quintero (59′ Rodriguez), Izquierdo (70′ Bacca); Falcao (Vargas, Jo. Cuadrado, Mina, Diaz, Zapata, Uribe, Aguilar, Borja, Muriel) Coach: Pekerman|
|JAPAN (4-2-3-1): Kawashima; Sakai, Shoji, Yoshida, Nagatomo; Shibasaki (80′ Yamaguchi), Hasebe; Inui, Kagawa (69′ Honda), Haraguchi; Osako (85′ Okazaki) (Higashiguchi, Nakamura, Ueda, Endo, Usami, Muto, Oshima, Makino, G. Sakai) Coach: Nishino|
REFEREE: Skomina (Slovenia)
NOTES: Attendance: 40842; Yellow Cards: Barrios, Rodriguez (C), Kawashima (J); Red Card: Sanchez (C); Extra time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 5′
Translated by Matteo Carnevale