RUSSIA 2018 WORLD CUP: Five Things From Day 6

  1. Samurai put 10-man Colombia to the sword: In the group H opener between Japan and Colombia, underdogs Japan caused a major upset defeating the South Americans 2-1. Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez now holds the infamous record of being the first player to be sent off in this edition of the World Cup and the second fastest sending off in the history of the competition—Jose Alberto Batista for Uruguay against Scotland in 1986 (54 seconds). He was rightfully given his marching orders as he appeared to stick his arm to keep out Osako’s shot inside the area in the third minute. From the resulting penalty, Kagawa sent Ospina the wrong way as he shot straight down the middle to hand the Japs the lead. Colombia showed industry as Juan Quintero tricked the Japanese wall when he took a free kick close to the area which went in under the wall, much to the embarrassment of the Japanese goalkeeper who could not get down in time, to level scores heading into the break. Japan dominated the second half and they were duly rewarded when Osako rose highest to flick a header towards the far post in the 78th minute as they held on for a historic win.
  2. Senegal puts smiles on African faces: Ever since this competition began days ago, African teams that had competed kept on coming up short—always at the end of heartbreaking defeats. However, in the other group H fixture between Senegal and Poland, the Africans put an end to that trend as they put a break to European dominance as they defeated the Polish 2-1. This victory was reminiscent of their 2002 World Cup win in the opening game against the holders, France. Captained by current coach Aliou Cisse, they stunned their erstwhile colonial lords1-0. On Tuesday, the Terranga Lions took the lead, courtesy of an own goal before adding a second after the interval. Poland’s 86th-minute goal proved to be a mere consolation.
  3. Pharaohs unable to cross the Red Sea: The last game of Tuesday saw hosts Russia trade battles with the Egyptian pharaohs. When the referee blew the full-time whistle, the score was 3-1, in favour of the hosts, leaving them on the brink of qualification for the next round as Egyptian attackers could not find their way in a sea of red shirts in the opposition rearguard. On the flip side, the result leaves Egypt with nothing but pride to play for when they clash in the last group stage match with their Muslim brothers from Saudi Arabia before heading home.
  4. African own-goal love affair: Apart from Tunisia, the games involving African teams have been characterized by own goals, which have directly influenced the complexion/outcome of the games. Morocco’s 95th minute own goal against Iran handed the Iranians the win, Etebo’s own goal provided the cushion for the Croats to defeat Nigeria, while on Tuesday night, Egypt skipper, Ahmed Fathi, contrived to score one, which set the tune for the Russians as they added a further two goals in three minutes to add to their woes. In the Senegal v Poland game, while the Lions did not score one, the benefitted from a Polish own goal which gave them the lead, before they added one more to seal a memorable win.
  5. South Americans still battling Russian fever: Except for Uruguay—thanks to an 89th-minute winner against Egypt in the first round of matches. The other South American contingents in Russia —Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Colombia have so far failed to live up to the expectations of fans from the football-crazy

Written by Uwagwu Ifeanyi.