The Final Group opens up with one of the loudest National Anthems heard all tournament, by Colombia. You could feel the atmosphere from kickoff. Japan not an easy opening fixture by any means. Dreams to build off an electric 2014 Word Cup, Colombia has a night mare early. 3 minutes in, Colombia get caught out on the counter attack by Japan. Defensive Midfielder, Carlos Sanchez, jumped in front of shot. Hand ball. Penalty. Red Card. The trifecta had happened. Kagawa stepped up and sent Ospina the other way, for the 1-0 lead inside 5 minutes. Dream start for Japan.
It took until the 30th minute for Pekerman to make the switch for a defensive midfielder for winger. Off Juan Cuadrado and enter Wilmar Barrios. This substitute would allow Juan Quintero to move up the pitch, after Sanchez being dismissed forced him to sit much deeper. With the freedom of Quintero and his ability to open up passes in the attacking third, this would be a pivotal sub for Los Cafeteros. 8 minutes after the substitute, Colombia found themselves with a free kick on the right side. Well suited for the beautiful left foot of Juan Quintero. As the wall set up, you could feel a buzz amongst the Colombian fans. It wasn’t long before they were sent into a frenzy.
The whistle was blown by referee Damir Skomina, as free kick would resume. Quintero begins his run up, the wall jumps, the ball goes under, and crosses the goal line. Quintero had pulled the old Ronaldinho, under the wall, free kick. Absolutely incredible. Goalkeeper Kawashima had managed to save the ball from hitting bet, but goal line technology had alerted the referee about the goal. Colombia would go into half time down a man, but up on momentum. Second half looking to be a thriller. Would Colombia come out defensive to secure the point, or would the continue to pressure and get forward. Japan would have to hope to take the game to Colombia in the second half, given their numerical advantage.
Second half kicked off with Japan picking up the intensity and pressing Colombia more. Forcing them to lose possession a retreat. Colombia don’t press as much to start the second half, rather sit back and look to counter the opening ten minutes. For the first time this match, Colombia look down a man, and vulnerable. In order to stable things, Pekerman brings on James Rodriguez in the 59th minute. The dynamic midfielder can do it all, especially score some BANGERS. Colombia go through a spell in which they cannot get the ball, and Japan assert themselves as the dominant team. The first ten minutes James is on, He hardly has a touch of the ball. Japan executing the half time game plan perfectly. Don’t let Colombia attack.
Japan have the game in their grasp, and Colombia make a switch to try and snatch the win. Carlos Bacca comes on and hopes to spark The Colombians. Despite the spark he brought out when he subbed, Colombia can’t get the ball. Japan has dominated possession and simply passed side to side. Breaking down and tiring Colombia. Perfect tactics deployed by Akira Nishino’s men. He brought off Shinji Kagawa in the 70th minute and Keisuke Honda came on. Three minutes in the pitch, Honda nails a ball to the center for a go-ahead header by Yuya Asako. 2-1 Japan. Japan by far the better team in the second half.
The last ten minutes set up for a thriller. Colombia needing a goal for the draw, Japan trying to see off their solid performance, with a win. Colombia have done a lot of defensive running, chasing the ball. With the Colombians really starting to look tired, Japan brings on Okazaki. Japan try not to commit a bunch of players forward, and in doing so bringing on a forward was essential to continue the extensive side to side work by the Japan striker. Colombia press with the last 3 minutes approaching, and catch Japan stretched out on a long ball by the keeper. Colombia retain possession and finally can get forward. Japan sit deep and repel the attack time after time. Beautiful team work by the Japanese squad, who did well in their opening match.
2-1 was the result. Japan jubilated with their opening result, while Colombia will have to bounce back in next match. Depending on match with Poland and Senegal, could find themselves bottom of the group. Not a time to worry however, Colombia have the potential, and not every match we have a red card for them. They did well after the worst start, but Japan deserves the win. Well done Japan