A first-half penalty strike from Shinji Kagawa and a second-half winner from Yuya Osako helped Japan edge Colombia in their very first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

Japan kicked off their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign in the best way possible when they registered a 2:1 victory over Colombia at the Mordovia Arena on Tuesday.

In what was the first game of Group H, the Blue Samurais dominated the entire game following an early red card for Carlos Sanchez. The Colombian midfielder was penalized for deliberately preventing a goal-bound shot with his hand and was eventually red carded just three minutes after the commencement of the game.

In what was the first red card of this tournament, Carlos Sanchez’s sending off helped Japan dominate the proceedings from there on in. Akira Nishino’s side played to their true potential, especially in the second half, where they always had the upper hand over a hapless Colombia side, who were often times, clueless, in both attack and defensive phases.

Here at the THT, we pick out three of the players who impressed the most at the Mordovia Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

Yuya Osako

The difference on the day. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

The difference on the day. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

By far the player of the match, Yuya Osako’s exploits in the offensive zone was a key reason behind Japan’s impressive win over Colombia. In fact, the Koln attacker made his mark to the proceedings early on, when he lost his marker Davinson Sanchez to reach 1v1 with the goalkeeper. Although his shot was saved by Ospina, the rebound kindly fell to Shinji Kagawa, whose shot resulted in the penalty.

Osako kept wreaking havoc in the Colombia defence even after the goal, with a series of dangerous runs and cutbacks. He seemed to share a good understanding with his teammates in the final third, especially with Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui.

In the second half, Osako was even more impressive as he was involved in almost every attacking moments from his side. Even though Japan failed to invade the 10 men Colombian defence as often as they should have, Osako once again showed exactly what he is capable of when he netted home from a corner in the 73rd minute to restore his side’s lead.

He finished the game with three completed dribbles and took five of Japan’s 14 shots. In addition, he also scored the winner, thus, making him the most valuable player in this highly competitive encounter.

Takashi Inui

Inui-sance for the Colombian defence. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Inui-sance for the Colombian defence. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Even though most of us could connect Takashi Inui to a number of mistakes he made during the game, it’s also fair to acknowledge the fact that his presence in the Japan attack made life difficult for the Colombian defence.

Inui was involved in the thick of things for Japan in the offensive department as their left-sided overload helped the former Eintracht winger assert his authority. Owing to some classic wing play and dynamic movements, Takashi Inui was more than impressive in the wider positions.

Inui, who scored a brace in Japan’s 4:2 friendly win over Paraguay, earlier this month, was dispossessed eight times – more than any other player in the team. Having said that, he was definitely one of the better players for a Japan side who, in truth, failed to invade the opposing defence at regular intervals.

Inui’s explosive style of play, therefore, was quintessential as the Blue Samurais inflicted a huge upset against their far more superior opponent in Colombia.

Shinji Kagawa

Kagawa was his usual self for Japan. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Kagawa was his usual self for Japan. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Last but definitely not the least, Shinji Kagawa also deserves a shoutout for his influential play in the final third. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder took a risk early on, by placing his penalty directly down the centre of the goal but it paid to give Japan a lead in the sixth minute.

Although Kagawa certainly wasn’t one of the best players on the pitch, the 29-year-old a vital cog for Japan in transition play. The former Manchester United midfielder filled up the gap between the midfield and the offence, which proved to be a catalyst for his side’s overall performance against Colombia.

Additionally, Kagawa also made some contributions in the defensive department having made a couple of key interceptions. He also complimented the likes of Makoto Hasebe and Gaku Shibasaki in the central midfield positions, which ultimately helped his side dominate the opposing midfield.

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