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

James Rodriguez in action for Colombia

After a pulsating affair at the Mordovia Arena, Japan edge past Colombia with a 2-1 win in their opening Group H match. This scoreline was particularly unexpected in light of the fact that Japan had changed coaches shortly before the tournament, and because no Asian team had ever previously defeated a South American side in 17 World Cup meetings.

Colombia's Carlos Sanchez received a red card in the opening minutes of their Group H match against Japan for a deliberate handball inside the box, to become the second fastest to be sent off in a World Cup match.

Shinji Kagawa scored from the penalty spot and although Juan Quintero equalised late in the first half, Japan made their superior numbers count, with Osako heading in from a corner to seal the win.

"Right now our pain is precisely because after that huge effort after scoring that goal. we lost because we were worn down, we were exhausted and even if I tried subbing on a couple of fresh players it was very hard for us to recover possession and Japan had its opportunities", Pekerman said.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Colombians leveled from a dubiously awarded free kick late in the first half, Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima unable to prevent Juan Quintero's shot under the wall from creeping over the line.

That second goal Japan craved arrived in the 73rd minute as, after Hiroki Sakai's close-range shot was blocked behind, Osako met the resulting corner to head his side back in front.

Radamel Falcao is set to lead his side out against Japan on Tuesday afternoon, in what will be his first World Cup game at the age of 32. He is also the first Colombian to be sent off in a World Cup.

Jonathan Evans adapted this story based on the Associated Press news report. David Ospina had come for the cross, leaving a big target for Osako, but the header was perfectly placed into the corner.

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"To score a goal at the World Cup has been a dream for me since I was little, so I was extremely happy", said the match-winner.

Slovenian referee Damir Skomina flashed a straight red card for Carlos Sanchez after he blocked a Shinji Kagawa's shot with his arms.

"From the start I thought we could be very aggressive and of course we had the advantage of more players", Nishino told reporters.

Colombia began the game without Rodriguez, a Bayern Munich midfielder who was the leading scorer at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The result was bitterly disappointing for Colombia coach Jose Pekerman, with Robert Lewandowski-led Poland, then Senegal to come in Group H.

Shinji Okazaki also was named on the bench after a calf complaint but Shinji Kagawa was handed a start.

Tipped to finish bottom of the group, Japan have now made a blistering start to their World Cup campaign and could reach the Round of 16 for a third time in their history if they build on the momentum from today.

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