Hosts march on as Japan, Senegal break new ground
THE DAY REPLAYED - All 32 teams at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ have now been in action, and logic was turned on its head as Group H got underway. Japan and Senegal defied their respective FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking placings of 61 and 27 to overcome Colombia and Poland, respectively ranked 16th and eighth.
Though the Samurai Blue were handed an early one-man advantage when Carlos Sanchez was sent off after only three minutes – the second-fastest red card in World Cup history after Jose Batista's dismissal at Mexico 1986 – they showed resolve in retaking the lead after Los Cafeteros had equalised. Their win was the first for an Asian side over South American opposition in the competition’s history, after 15 defeats and three draws.
There was another continental first in the day’s next game: victory for an African side at Russia 2018. Following defeats for Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia, the Lions of Teranga opened Africa’s account with victory over Poland. Senegal were helped in their task by a Thiago Cionek own goal and a misplaced Grzegorz Krychowiak backpass, intercepted by a grateful Mbaye Niang.
With the first round of matches duly completed, Group A adversaries Russia and Egypt opened the second. In majestic form in their tournament opener, the Russians were up against a Pharaohs side still recovering from their late defeat to Uruguay but buoyed by the return of Mohamed Salah. And once again the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking was turned on its head, as the team placed 70th proved too strong for a side ranked 25 places above them. The defeated outfit proved generous once more, as Ahmed Fathi put through his own goal. With six points and eight goals in two matches, the Sbornaya are almost assured of a place in the Round of 16.
Did you know?
Six own goals were scored at France 1998, more than at any other world finals. That mark is under threat at Russia 2018, where five players have lost their sense of direction in 17 games and put through their own net, something that happened twice in today’s three matches. The own goal tally at Brazil 2014 has already been equalled.
Portugal-Morocco, Group B, Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium)
Uruguay-Saudi Arabia, Group A, Rostov-on-Don
IR Iran-Spain, Group B, Kazan
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