Colombia v Japan Match Review

Things that take longer than 176 seconds; you can expect a longer wait in your local McDonalds drive thru for your meal. You take on average 3 times longer a pop each time you go to the bathroom during work hours. It’s also about the time before kick-off where the Optus World Cup stream continues to drop out despite most of its traffic being redirected over to SBS. But 176 seconds was all that it took for Carlos Sánchez to be sent off following an errant arm blocking the shot of Kagawa within the box in what led to a 2-1 historic victory to Japan.

The opening round of the 2018 World Cup has seen many records rewritten, and the commencement of the Group H opener was no exception. Colombia found themselves down to 10-men in what was the 2nd fastest red card in World Cup history; only falling to a send off within the first minute of the Scotland v. Uruguay clash in 1986. The Japanese victory also saw Japan cementing themselves as the first Asian team to defeat a South American team in 17 World Cup meetings, with Japan being the only Asian team to score 2 goals in all of these 17 previous match ups.

Prior to kick-off, Japan entered as underdogs due to unsettlement in the ranks just months prior to the group-stage. Japan replaced Vahid Halilhodžić with Akira Nishino on the back of claims big players, such as Keisuke Honda, feeling disgruntled with the previous management style. More questions than answers appeared at the start of the clash when Honda, Japan’s leading World Cup goal scorer, was not named in the starting line-up despite all reports that he was match fit, in favour of Yuya Osako, not known for filling a prolific striker role. Colombia, in contrast, presented well on paper, with high class players such as Radamel Falcao starting in the striker role, with further firepower available on the bench in the form of James Rodriguez, who had been nursing a calf injury in the match lead up.

The blow of the first whistle saw the match escalate feverishly in a matter of minutes, with the first red card of the 2018 competition being shown to Carlos Sánchez and a penalty awarded to allow Kagawa a second attempt on goal; in which he calmly converted.

José Pékerman’s hand was forced early, with a 30th minute tactical substitution- experienced Cuadrado off for Barrios- to allow for a defensive boost within Colombia’s midfield and to allow Arias more space on the right. Despite the 1 man and 1 goal deficit, Colombia was still seeing plenty of the ball.

A 38th minute free kick that never should have existed then changed play. Falcao was awarded a spot kick that upon replay should have been granted to Japan. Quintero lined up for a cheeky free kick that trickled under the wall and just across the line. Japanese keeper Kawashima attempted to argue that the ball had not crossed the line (the argument not such a bad idea considering reviews have come up with stranger answers to the blatantly obvious), with goal-line technology used to confirm the goal stood.

The start of the 2nd half saw a large number of turnovers from both sides and also the start of a nearly 40 minute drought of shots either on or off target by Colombia.

The 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Rodriguez was bought on to hopefully spur some Colombian magic at the 59th minute, replacing earlier goal scorer Quintero, however he saw very little of the ball for the remainder of the match.

Likewise, Japan also chose to replace their goal scorer, Kagawa, with country favourite Honda in the 69th minute: a tactic that paid off only 4 minutes later. A 72nd minute shot that was initially goal-bound if not for a deflection went out for a corner. Osaka quickly took the corner with a perfectly flighted cross into the box to find the head of Osaska and the back of the net. Japan was able to defend their lead for the remainder of the game to claim their historic 2-1 win.

The remainder of Group H matches were played out post the Colombia v. Japan clash to see out an exciting opening round, that included many upsets. What will we see in the next round of clashes? And more importantly, will anyone overtake Owen Goal as Golden Boot? He only needs one more to equalise his record of 6 goals in 1998, with plenty of game time still to be seen. #OG4GoldenBoot.

By Hayley Leedham