Japan and Senegal played out a thriller to secure a point each and retain their top two positions in the Group H. We review the three players that made a mark.
Japan and Senegal played out a sensational 2-2 draw in their top-of-the-table Group H clash. The scoreline might not be able to justify the work put by the teams here, but Senegal definitely deserved it more than Japan. However, the Africans were suspect to letting Japan come back into the game due to their own mishaps in the game.
Senegal took the lead through a fortuitous Sadio Mane goal, but all it took Japan was a decent effort on target to level things up. Senegal, reclaimed the lead with 20 minutes as play with 19-year-old Moussa Wague slotted the ball home, and it then looked like the Africans would go through that way and qualify for the next round.
But, Keisuke Honda had other plans as the midfielder was in the right place at the right time to slot home Japan’s equalising goal. The game ended 2-2, with both teams gaining a point each after victories in their first games. Now in this position and irrespective of the result from Colombia’s clash against Poland, Japan and Senegal are in an excellent place to qualify from their group.
Senegal took control of the game in its early stage, leading their way in possession and chance creation as they looked like stamping their authority on the proceedings. After they deservedly scored their opener, Japan had to respond in one way or another to be in the game. Yuto Nagatomo was their man to help them do so.
Although the full-back had his hands full with Senegal winger Ismaila Sarr, he was a different player going forward. Always on hand to support his team from the left side, especially with his tricky, overlapping runs, Nagatomo, was the actual creator of Japan’s equalising goal.
The defender made a brilliant, diagonal run across the area before controlling the ball magnificently and relaying it to Takashi Inui, who took a perfect shot to equalise. The goal essentially set the tone for the remainder of the game, and Nagatomo can be credited as the catalyst for it.
Senegal have played rather brilliantly in both their World Cup games so far, and their right side has somewhat been the go-to flank for attacking plays. Many of Senegal’s attacks against Japan came in from the right-hand side, and one man that was always present there to deliver crosses and make overlapping runs was 19-year-old Moussa Wague.
Wague delivered many crosses from his side of the pitch and finally, when one got correctly connected, it resulted in Senegal’s opening goal, scored by Sadio Mane, who also featured as one of the players to watch in this game. The full-back was causing plenty of problems for the Japanese defence, and his runs were difficult to track.
His efforts were rewarded when he also got on the scoresheet with Senegal’s second goal of the game. As many of his senior colleagues passed up some rather good chances, the 19-year-old took his opportunity well by cashing in on the far post to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
There indeed were more than three top performers in this match from both sides. M’Baye Niang capped off another good performance for his team, as did Kalidou Koulibaly at the heart of Senegal’s defence. Maya Yoshida was another player, who despite some early blips, steadied himself and his defence to keep the score at an optimal level.
However, it was Keisuke Honda who features here for his role in the game after coming off the bench to score what was a deserved Japanese equaliser. The experienced winger, 32, replaced Shinji Kagawa and pounced on an error from Khadim N’Diaye to restore parity with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Japan, if they are to qualify to the next round will need the immense experience of Honda as players like him are more than capable of defining the game for their teams. As for now, he earned a place in this list due to his efforts after coming off the bench and scoring the much-needed equaliser, which leaves the chances for the Blue Samurai wide open.