Japan secured a famous start to their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign as they shocked 10-man Colombia 2-1 at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Russia, on Tuesday.
Shinji Kagawa put Japan ahead in the sixth minute after Carlos Sanchez was dismissed for a deliberate handball in the box, but a clever low free-kick from Juan Quintero saw Colombia draw level ahead of the break.
Japan came out after half-time with much more intent to make their man advantage count, and Yuya Osako headed the winner with 17 minutes remaining.
The result puts Japan to the top of Group H, although that could change based on the outcome of Poland against Senegal later on Tuesday at Spartak Stadium. Meanwhile, it leaves Colombia playing catch-up in the race for the knockout rounds.
Carlos Sanchez's Moment of Madness Puts Colombia's World Cup in Jeopardy
No fan wants to see a defensive howler from their side at a World Cup and especially not two inside the first three minutes of the entire campaign.
Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez was culpable for Colombia's calamitous start as he let a high ball bounce and then was outmuscled by Osako.
But his namesake, Carlos, then upped the ante after David Ospina had saved well from Osaka, sticking out his hand to stop Kagawa's follow-up effort.
Per the Times' Gabriele Marcotti, it was a moment of madness from the Espanyol loanee and could be terminal to Colombia's World Cup hopes.
There was no reason for it. Even if Kagawa's attempt had gone in, at least Los Cafeteros would have had 11 men and not had to change their approach after just a few minutes.
Ospina could do nothing to save Kagawa's cool penalty that put Japan ahead. While he then made a couple of decent saves from open play, he was out of position when Osako headed home Keisuke Honda's corner for the winner, per ESPN's Alex Shaw:
Colombia manager Jose Pekerman needs to see improvement from his defence in the rest of the tournament, but it could already be too late thanks to Sanchez's aberration.
James Will Struggle in Bid to Match 2014
James Rodriguez lit up the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, winning the Golden Boot with six goals as he netted at least once in every game as Colombia reached the last eight.
He was unable to recover in time from a calf injury to make the starting XI on Tuesday but was thrown on by an ambitious Pekerman with 31 minutes to go as Colombia looked for a winner.
Unlike 2014, though, there was no moment of magic from the 26-year-old to turn the game on its head, and James was largely anonymous.
The pressure on the Bayern Munich man is huge when he's in a Colombia shirt, and the South American side are now under pressure going into their next two group games.
Rodriguez played with a freedom that thrilled at Brazil 2014, but he is unlikely to be able to replicate that given the opening performance at Russia 2018 and the huge expectation on his shoulders.
Group H Will Not Disappoint
It may not boast the best teams in the tournament, but Group H has looked the most interesting of the lot ever since the draw in December.
The group has four sides from different continents and with differing styles, but Colombia's clash with Japan should have been the most routine fixture.
On the evidence of the clash from the Mordovia Arena, Group H should more than meet expectations.
Japan showed adventure in the second half that belied their disappointing reaction to their early lead. And Colombia looked as effervescent as ever before the break.
Poland and Senegal have their own stars who could light up the tournament—Robert Lewandowski and Sadio Mane being the obvious two—so the subsequent clashes in the group are not to be missed.
Colombia and Japan both play next on Sunday. Los Cafeteros take on Poland at the Kazan Arena after the Samurai Blue's fixture against Senegal at Ekaterinburg Arena.