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Analysis: Superb second-half display gives Japan deserved win

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Saransk: Japan’s 2-1 victory over Colombia in Group H on Tuesday saw the Samurai Blue become the first Asian team to defeat South American opposition at a FIFA World Cup after an assertive second-half performance against 10 men that yielded numerous chances. 

Shinji Kagawa

The East Asians could not have got off to a better start when Carlos Sanchez was dismissed for handling Shinji Kagawa’s goalbound effort in the third minute and Kagawa coolly slotted the penalty home.

Colombia responded well and equalised through Juan Quintero before the interval, but Japan came back strongly and secured all three points after Yuya Osako’s decisive goal.

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Early boost but Colombia look more likely

Japan enjoyed the early possession and Kagawa’s penalty gave them a dream start but, rather than take control of the game, Akira Nishino’s team did not register another shot on target for the remainder of the half and it was Colombia who looked more threatening.

Twice Colombia’s main goalscoring threat, Radamel Falcao, latched onto dinked balls over the top but saw his efforts go straight at ‘keeper Eiji Kawashima as the 2014 quarter-finalists pressed for the equaliser and Japan sat on their lead. The graph below (with Falcao number nine) shows the shots on target in the opening 45 minutes.

And the South Americans then deservedly leveled the scores as half-time approached as Quintaro’s clever free-kick went under the Japan wall and beyond the scrambling Kawashima. At the interval, a passive Japan did not look a side that had played with a man advantage.

A bold second half

Whatever Nishino said to his players during the break had the desired effect as Japan seized the initiative from the restart and went all out for the victory, with Osako, Tasaki Inui, Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai all having efforts on goal in the first 15 minutes.

Japan’s dominance continued with the game largely being played in the Colombian half as the South Americans posed none of the attacking threat displayed in the first half and looked happy to settle for a draw.

As shown in the graph above, Japan had eight efforts on goal after the interval, compared to Colombia’s one, and when Osako’s winning goal arrived after Sakai’s effort was deflected wide for a corner it was nothing more than they deserved.

Osako’s key contribution

Recently acquired by German side Werder Bremen, Osako was instrumental in the Japanese victory with the striker’s strength on show from the off in muscling the dithering Davinson Sanchez off the ball in the move that ultimately led to Carlos Sanchez’s dismissal and the opening goal.

After again giving the Colombian defence no time to settle on the ball, the 28-year-old skewed a shot well wide later in the first half, before his second-half contribution proved even more vital.

In the move that resulted in the winning goal, Osako turned 30 yards out to find Honda and, after darting into the box, used his power to hold off Oscar Murillo to tee up Sakai, whose shot was deflected wide. From the ensuing corner he leapt highest to head home from six yards.

Withdrawn after 85 minutes, Osako had more efforts on goal (5) than any other player and posted the most attempts on target (3), while no one on the pitch created more than the two chances he made for his teammates in a performance that will delight Nishino.

On Sunday, Japan will look to maintain their momentum against Senegal, who defeated Poland 2-1, while both Colombia and the Poles will aim to get their first points on the board.

Photos: Getty Images

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