Japan became the very first Asian side to defeat South American opponents at a World Cup (in 18 games betwixt the two) by seeing off Colombia in Group H.
Truth be told, Los Cafeteros were derailed with less than three minutes on the clock, when Carlos Sanchez was shown the first red card of the tournament for heroically sacrificing himself to deny a clear goal-scoring opportunity with his hand.
According to Opta, Sanchez’s sending-off (02:56) has entered the record books as the second fastest in World Cup history, the first being Jose Alberto Batista’s ultra-quick dismissal for Uruguay against Scotland in 1986 (54 seconds).
Shinji Kagawa scored the resulting penalty to nudge the Blue Samarai into an early lead – a lead which lasted until the 39th minute, when Juan Quintero fooled everybody by rolling a deliciously cheeky freekick underneath the wall…
Rather amusingly, Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima spent the next couple of minutes wagging his finger and protesting that he’d kept Quintero’s effort out, despite the referee and the goal line technology having already confirmed otherwise.
The second half was a more pedestrian affair, as Colombia contended with their numerical disadvantage and left Radamel Falcao hopelessly isolated up front on his own.
Despite an odd lack of intensity, Japan kept the pressure on as their opponents began flagging and finally forced themselves a historic winning goal in the 73rd minute when Yuya Osaka got his head on Keisuke Honda’s corner…
So that puts Japan, who only changed their manager 70 days ago, in pole position in the group standings with Poland and Senegal yet to play.
Given their solidarity at the back and fair goal-scoring threat going forward, it looks, at least for the time being, like they might just be able to scrape through.