Japan came from behind twice to hold Senegal to a 2-2 draw in their First stage FIFA World Cup Group H game at the Ekaterinburg Arena in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg on Sunday.
Senegal started with real attacking intent and they were rewarded as star forward Sadio Mane took full advantage of some defensive hesitancy to score after 11 minutes. Despite enjoying more possession, Japan remained on the back foot until Takashi Inui netted just past the half-hour, with a smart curling finish from inside the penalty area.
Yuya Osako missed a golden opportunity on the hour mark, and Inui hit the crossbar minutes later as Japan’s attacking outlets found space. Senegal made Japan pay for their profligacy as 19-year-old Moussa Wague lashed home on 71 minutes, but substitute Keisuke Honda equalised seven minutes later, finishing off Inui’s cut-back pass from close range. Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score at three FIFA World Cups. Senegal defender, Moussa Wague, is the youngest African player (born October 4, 1998) to score at the world championships.
Senegal forward Sadio Mane was named Man of the Match for his opening goal and constant attacking threat.
“It was a tough match, and we always knew it was going to be tough. We knew Senegal were not a team we could win easily against. But the team were calm after conceding goals and it was positive that we were able to equalise twice. We constructed attacks well and played in our own rhythm. The substitutions also worked well and I think I did very well with the timing of those. The players were very confident and positive, and I myself thought we could have gone for the victory. And we really wanted to win this match. But Senegal are a very strong team and I hope that this result will lead to more success in our next match.” Akira Nishino, Japan coach said after the game.
“Of course we have regrets. We must acknowledge that we didn’t see a great Senegalese performance tonight in comparison to the match against Poland. We were not very good frankly, and Japan were the better team, I have to admit that. But despite that fact, we led twice and what’s annoying for me is the two goals we conceded. Japan played as expected; they are a very technical team with such good quality in that respect. We pressured them well at the start and they made some errors, which we exploited. But as soon as gave them some space, it became difficult for us. Now we have to hope for the best when we face Colombia. “Aliou Cisse, Senegal coach said.
“Frankly, we’re a bit disappointed, and that’s normal because there was a way for us to win this match. I felt we started the game well but then we let them back into it. But we can’t underestimate the Japanese team – they created quite a lot of opportunities and scored twice. Now we have a decisive match next week and we are going to prepare really well in order to qualify – that’s the only thing left for us to do.” Sadio Mane, Man of the Match added.
Princess Hisako Takamado of Japan, who arrived in Yekaterinburg late Friday, attended the game to support her national team.
Sunday’s game marked the fourth encounter between Japan and Senegal. Previously, two friendlies were won by Senegal and one game ended in a draw.
Japan and Senegal currently share the top place in Group H with four points each after each had won their respective opening outings.
Japan will play their next group stage game against Poland in Volgograd, and Senegal will face Colombia in Samara. Both matches will take place on June 28.
A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The teams were divided into eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups will proceed to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Russia is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14. The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The 11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.