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.
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.
But Japan made the perfect start to their World Cup campaign, becoming the first Asian country to defeat a South American team at a World Cup and earning three points in what is expected to be one of the most closely-contested groups in the tournament, with Poland and Senegal the other two nations in Group H.
Winless in their six previous World Cup games on European soil, Japan 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.