Japan have opened their 2018 World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win against 10-man Colombia at the Mordovia Arena on Tuesday afternoon.
The Japanese were not given much hope of progressing through the group with Colombia, Poland and Senegal to face, but they took advantage of Carlos Sanchez’s early dismissal for a handball inside the area with Shinji Kagawa scoring the subsequent penalty.
Colombia rallied and got level through Juan Quintero’s free-kick before half-time, but Japan dominated after the interval and deservedly secured three points via a header from Yuya Osako.
Colombia went into the game without star man James Rodriguez in the starting XI because of muscle fatigue and their problems deepened only three minutes in when they conceded a penalty and were reduced to 10 men.
Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina produced a good save to prevent Osako from scoring, but the ball rolled invitingly to Kagawa who saw his goalbound strike diverted away by the outstretched arm of Carlos Sanchez.
Sanchez was red-carded by referee Damir Skomina and Kagawa stepped up to convert his sixth-minute spot-kick straight down the middle after Ospina committed to the dive.
Victory for Japan is their first ever on European soil at the World Cup and their first against South American opposition in the competition.