World Cup Recap: Day 6
Wins for Japan, Senegal and Russia as host nation continues to score big
The final games in the first round of the group stage would be played on Tuesday as Russia vs. Egypt would kick off the second wave of group matches. A lot of the attention would be the stars of European leagues like Colombia’s James Rodriguez, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Senegal’s Sadio Mané and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah.
Colombia 1-2 Japan
Mordovia Arena, Saransk
Colombia are one of the teams considered a “dark horse” in this World Cup, but Los Cafeteros could not have gotten off to a more nightmarish start. A handball in the third minute not only conceded a penalty in favor of Japan but it also left Colombia to battle the remainder of the 87-plus minutes with 10 men after the red card to defender Carlos Sanchez. Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa converted from the penalty spot and Japan was up 1-0 early. Colombia reorganized themselves in midfield but their best opportunity would come on a dead ball after Radamel Falcao won a free kick in the 37th minute. Juan Fernando Quintero sneaked the ball through the ground as the players on the wall jumped and - with confirmation from the goal-line technology - Colombia tied the score.
Japan was able to rectify their form in the second half, they took control of possession and made use of the man-advantage. Both teams generated five shots in the first half but Japan had the better second half, outshooting Colombia nine to three. After their persistence in attack, Japan finally broke through on a corner as Yuya Osako headed in the game-winning goal in the 73rd minute.
Analysis: Colombia will be disappointed not to have gotten off to a better start but better to have this setback in the first match while they still have time to rectify their form. They will play their most important match yet against Poland, who will not be an easy outing. Japan pick up a big result that could see them advance to their first round of 16 since South Africa 2010, if they are able to capitalize on this result. Group H is wide open.
Notable stat: Japan is the first Asian side to beat a South American opponent at a FIFA World Cup
Poland 1-2 Senegal
Spartak Stadium, Moscow
Senegal are the first African team to pick up a win at the 2018 FIFA World Cup after defeating Poland. Both sides had opportunities to take the lead but the opening goal would come off an own-goal from Poland in the 37th minute. A shot by Senegal’s Idrissa Gueye rebounded off the leg of Polish defender Thiago Cionek to make it 1-0. That was the clearest scoring opportunity as neither teams generated a shot on goal in the first half.
The deficit would open up the game and bring out a more attacking Poland in the second half. Robert Lewandowski had a good opportunity from a free kick that was saved by the Senegalese goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye. Senegal would increase their lead in a bit of controversial fashion as forward Mbaye Niang re-entered the match from injury to sprint and score in the 60th minute. Poland had a high line in defense and were caught off guard of Niang re-entering the field. Poland finally got on the board in the 85th minute with a header from Grzegorz Krychowiak but were unable to get the draw or the comeback.
Analysis: This is a big win for Senegal considering the success of European countries at this World Cup. The Teranga Lions have a good chance to finish top of the group - depending on what happens from here, of course - but their biggest focus should be on bettering their form as a round of 16 match will likely come against Belgium or England. Poland now stares at a possible elimination match against Colombia on Sunday, depending on what happens between Senegal and Japan.
Notable stat: Senegal have yet to lose a group stage match at a FIFA World Cup (now 1-3-0)
Russia 3-1 Egypt
Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg
After finishing as the top scorer in the Premier League and guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League Final, Mohamed Salah made his awaited debut for Egypt at the World Cup. The Egyptian star, coming back from a shoulder injury, would have a quiet match with only one shot in the first half. Neither side did much in the first half, for that matter, as tensions grew with each passing minute. Unfortunately for Egypt, the game would be blown wide open with an own goal off defender Ahmed Fathi in the 47th minute. Denis Cheryshev would add to his tally - and tie Cristiano Ronaldo in the Golden Boot race - with Russia’s second goal in the 59th minute. Artem Dzyuba scored Russia’s third in the 62nd to extend the lead to 3-nil. Salah would convert a penalty in the 73rd minute to open his account but Egypt would not be able to reverse the momentum.
Analysis: Russia picked up a huge result to all but secure their passage into the round of 16, which would be the farthest they have advanced since the fall of the Soviet Union. An Uruguay win would set up for a battle for the top spot of the group. Egypt, on the other hand, depends on a miracle win from Saudi Arabia to keep their hopes alive. Mo Salah’s debut may have come too late for the Egyptians as they stare at an early exit.
Notable stat: Egypt’s last goal at a World Cup also came off a penalty, converted by Magdi Abdelghani in a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands at Italy 1990.
Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):
Wednesday, June 20
7 a.m. - [Group B] Portugal vs. Morocco (FS1, Telemundo)
10 a.m. - [Group A] Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia (FOX, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - [Group B] Iran vs. Spain (FOX, Telemundo)