Japan earns historic victory with stunning 2-1 win over Colombia

The Associated Press

SARANSK, Russia — Japan did what no other Asian team had ever done at a World Cup — beat a South American squad.

The 2-1 victory over Colombia on Tuesday was another surprising result in an unpredictable tournament.

A costly mistake by Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez in the opening minutes led to a red card and a penalty, helping Japan take an early lead. Coming in the third minute, it was the second-fastest red card in World Cup history and the first of this year’s tournament.

Yuya Osako won a bouncing ball to begin a sequence that led to the red card and the penalty. Sanchez blocked Shinji Kagawa’s shot with his extended right arm and was ejected. Kagawa then converted from the spot.

Colombia, which played with 10 men for the rest of the match, scored late in the first half on Juan Quintero’s rolling but accurate free kick, which sneaked inside the right post. Osako’s gritty determination led to a 73rd-minute header from Keisuke Honda’s corner kick that gave Japan three points in Group H.

“He played well in Germany this season,” Honda said of the Werder Bremen forward. “He also couldn’t score last World Cup and I knew he really wanted to score this game. I’m happy he scored.”

Japan became the latest team to pull off an upset at the World Cup, joining Mexico, Switzerland and Iceland in earning unexpected results. The win was a surprise also because Japan changed coaches shortly before the tournament, and because Asian teams had failed to beat South American opposition in 17 previous World Cup meetings.

“Normally you prepare a match to play 11 players against 11 and to lose one player in the first three minutes — to lose such a crucial player — that’s not an easy thing,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “In the second half, Japan adapted its style and managed to score by playing better and taking advantage of their opportunities.”

Sanchez did not speak to reporters after the match.