Japan wasn’t going to be an easy win for Colombia in Group H of the World Cup. Still, Colombia must have expected to come away with a win and three points. Instead, Japan eked out a 2-1 victory over Colombia, which played with 10 men after a Carlos Sanchez handball in the box in the third minute.
You can’t blame Sanzhez either. Japan created a break for Shinji Kagawa who poked the ball at Colombia keeper David Ospina. The ball ricocheted to Yuya Osako, who took a shot at the net. Sanchez did his best to get in the way of the ball. The worst outcome ensued: a handball, a red card and a penalty-kick goal.
Here’s a look at the goal and the handball (which is at the very end of the video).
Colombia responded with a goal in the 39th minute, but Japan found the net again in 73rd and the scoring stopped.
Colombia is in now serious danger of failing to advance out of group play with games against Senegal and Poland. We may not be seeing much of James Rodriquez, who won the Golden Boot as the World Cup 2014’s top scorer. Not only are his team’s odds looking grim after just one game, but he’s also nursing a calf injury, which is cutting into his minutes. He didn’t enter the contest until the 56th minute.
Colombia can win out — something they’re capable of. They can also hope Japan wins out, which seems like a bit of a long shot considering how much difficulty they had putting away a man-down Colombia team.
There are also scenarios where the group matches end in a number of draws, which could help Colombia creep back into the mix. Over the last two World Cups, only three teams have advanced to the knockout stage after losing the opener, so relying on others with draws is a risky proposition.
This group wasn’t a group of death, but it is certainly a group in which the teams are close in terms of talent. Colombia couldn’t afford a loss to Japan. They’re left to figure out how to dig themselves out of this deep hole.