FOUR years after a 4-1 defeat to Colombia saw them crash out of the World Cup in Brazil, Japan not only got their revenge over their 10-man rivals but also became the first Asian side in World Cup history to defeat a South American nation in the finals.
The match got off to an explosive start as Japanese striker Yuya Osako wriggled free from Davison Sanchez to fire one at the goal.
Keeper David Ospina blocked his shot rebounding the ball right at the feet of Shinji Kagawa whose shot was deflected away by Colombian midfielder Carlos Sanchez’s arm — who then became the first player to be sent off in the 21st World Cup.
Kagawa stepped up to calmly side-foot the penalty in.
Shortly after Kagawa slipped through winger Takashi Inui who should have done better than side-foot wide of the far post.
Already lacking their star of the last tournament, James Rodriguez — deemed not fit enough to start — Colombia slowly worked their way back into the game.
In a tactical switch, coach Jose Pekerman withdrew pacy winger Juan Cuadrado to bring on an extra midfielder.
The Colombians were gifted a way back into the game when referee Damir Skomina awarded them a soft free kick for a foul on Radamel Falcao.
Juan Quintero caught out Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima by slipping the ball under the Japanese wall and just beyond the line before the despairing keeper could claw it out.
With their numerical superiority, Japan reasserted control in the second half with their short-passing style.
Within minutes, Ospina saved from Osako at his near-post then at full stretch from Inui at his far post.
Peckerman responded by bringing on Rodriguez, the top scorer at the last World Cup, for goalscorer Quintero. But by then the flow of the game was one way.
Osako gave them a deserved lead in the 73rd minute heading home substitute Keisuki Honda’s left-wing corner with Ospina in no-man’s land.
Five minutes later, Rodriguez almost maintained his record of scoring in every World Cup match he’s appeared in but he was denied by a flying last-ditch challenge by goalscorer Osako.
Pekerman felt his team suffered due to their lack of possession in the second half.
“Right now, the pain that we feel is precisely because after the huge effort of scoring our goal, we lost because we were worn down, we were tired,” he said.
“It was very hard for us to recover possession.”
Japanese coach Akira Nishino felt his team improved after his half-time team talk.
“We didn’t finish the first half very well, therefore what I said at half-time was to keep moving.
“The numerical advantage is not really an advantage, it is the positioning that matters for pressing.
“We needed to move the ball and of course we have to deprive the opposition of their stamina.
“In the second half, we controlled the game better and also controlled the ball better and that is the reason why we were awarded the second goal. The players were aggressive and tough from the start and that worked very well for us.”
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