Japan punish 10-man Colombia in Saransk to make winning start

Japan's Yuya Osako center scores his side second goal during the group H match between Colombia and Japan at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Mordavia Arena in Saransk Russia Tuesday

Japan's Yuya Osako center scores his side second goal during the group H match between Colombia and Japan at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Mordavia Arena in Saransk Russia Tuesday

Yuya Osako scored a second-half victor as Japan beat 10-man Colombia 2-1 in their opening Group H match at the World Cup finals in Russian Federation on Tuesday.

Japan led after only five minutes, Kagawa converting a penalty awarded for Carlos Sanchez's handball in the area. Shinji Kagawa remains a big name but he hasn't had the brightest time and Japan are lacking in attacking options up front.

Oasko's gritty determination to set up one goal and his 73rd-minute header from Keisuke Honda's corner kick lifted Japan to a surprising 2-1 victory over the Colombians on Tuesday.

Colombia's Carlos Sanchez was red carded after two minutes and 56 seconds - the second fastest shown in World Cup history, after Jose Alberto Batista for Uruguay vs Scotland in 1986 (54 seconds).

Japan will try to claim revenge for their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Colombia, who reached the quarter-finals, in their final group game at the 2014 World Cup finals.

Both Senegal and Poland - who meet later today - will fancy their chances of qualifying from this group which, with four teams committed to attack, looks like being a thriller.

Referee Damir Skomina from Slovenia shows a red card to Colombia's Carlos Sanchez on the ground during the group H match between Colombia and Japan at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Mordavia Arena in Saransk Russia Tuesday

Japan 1, Colombia 0.

Yuya Osako's 73rd-minute victor was a huge relief for the Japanese, who were thumped 4-1 by Colombia four years ago during a miserable campaign in which they failed to register a single win.

Yuya Osako headed in the victor after Juan Quintero's 39th minute free-kick had cancelled out Shinji Kagawa's third minute openee from the spot. Colombia brought on James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca in a desperate bid to salvage a point but Japan held on for a first win at the World Cup since beating Denmark in 2010.

Nonetheless, from the resultant corner, Japan finally found the breakthrough as Honda's unsafe delivery found Osako, who showed the greatest hunger in a sea of opposition defenders to send a deft header past Ospina and win it for his team. With Colombia down to 10 men, Juan Fernando Quintero then eased tensions by equalising with a cheeky goal as he shot an under-the-wall free-kick. Falcao captain's Colombia in his first World Cup appearance. The win was a surprise also because Japan changed coaches shortly before the tournament, and because Asian teams had failed to beat South American opposition in 17 previous World Cup meetings.

The first red card of the tournament was produced in the opening exchanges, with Sanchez given his marching orders for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

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