Japan made hard work of a match in which they held all the cards but were saved by a late Yuya Osako victor which earned them a 2-1 win in their World Cup opener against a 10-man Colombia on Tuesday. This scoreline was particularly unexpected in light of the fact that Japan had changed coaches shortly before the tournament, and because no Asian team had ever previously defeated a South American side in 17 World Cup meetings.
Hiroki Sakai should have restored Japan's lead when his low cross from the right was played back to him by Osako, only for the full-back to drill the ball at Oscar Murillo, with the deflection taking the effort wide.
The Group H favourites suffered a nightmarish start to their campaign when Sanchez blocked Shinji Kagawa's shot with his arm after just two minutes and 56 seconds, prompting the referee to brandish the first straight red card for handball at a World Cup since Luis Suarez was sent off against Ghana in 2010.
Osako won a bouncing ball to begin an early sequence that led to a penalty, put Colombia a man down and gave Japan a 1-0 lead when Shinji Kagawa converted from the spot.
Despite being down to 10 men, Colombia didn't lose heart after going one goal down and remained confident, deservingly getting the equaliser before halftime.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Colombians leveled from a dubiously awarded free kick late in the first half, Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima unable to prevent Juan Quintero's shot under the wall from creeping over the line.
Colombia equalised shortly before half-time through Juan Quintero's free-kick, but Japan dominated the second half and were good value for Yuya Osako's late victor. The team joins Mexico, Switzerland and Iceland in earning surprising results.
The 22-year-old central defender started the game and played for the entire 90 minutes, as Colombia lost 2-1.
Jonathan Evans adapted this story based on the Associated Press news report.
Not only was Osako instrumental in both goals, he sprawled to block a close-range shot by Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez in the waning minutes. Sanchez did his best to get in the way of the ball.
Colombia may well have had 10 men, but take nothing away from Japan who were ruthless on the day.
"Our players were aggressive from the start and I think that worked very well for us". 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.
Pekerman defended his strategy, which included subbing in attacking midfielder and 2014 Golden Boot victor James Rodriguez, who had been left out of the starting lineup because of muscle pain.
None of Colombia's 19 games at the World Cup have ended goalless.
Nonetheless, from the resultant corner, Japan finally found the breakthrough as Honda's risky delivery found Osako, who showed the greatest hunger in a sea of opposition defenders to send a deft header past Ospina and win it for his team.