Colombia 1 Japan 2
SARANSK • Japan coach Akira Nishino hailed his side's aggressive attitude following the Samurai Blue's 2-1 win over Colombia yesterday - the first time an Asian team had beaten a South American side at the World Cup.
The 63-year-old, who was appointed only in April, had indicated before the match that he was worried about the "psychological impact" of Monday's earthquake in Osaka on his players, especially those with families there.
But Japan showed that they were focused and up to the task at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, aided also by Colombia being a man down early in the match.
"We were very aggressive right from the start," Nishino said at his post-match news conference.
"We quickly had the advantage of the majority, but it's not just about the number of players. You must also take advantage of this advantage.
"After the first goal, we left Colombia too much space. We talked about this during the break.
"I said that if we can keep the ball moving, we can deprive the Colombia players of their stamina.
AGGRESSION THE KEY
Our players were aggressive, and I think that worked very well for us. But this is just one win, so we will save our celebration.
AKIRA NISHINO, Japan coach.
First round of group stage - in numbers
39 Average of 2.44 in 16 matches.
100 Minutes clocked by Brazil and Switzerland, with three minutes of stoppage played in the first half and seven in the second.
78K 78,011 watched the opening ceremony and hosts Russia thrash Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium.
9 Seven were successful:
• Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal v Spain)
• Antoine Griezmann (France v Australia)
• Mile Jedinak (Australia v France)
• Luka Modric (Croatia v Nigeria)
• Andreas Granqvist (Sweden v South Korea)
• Ferjani Sassi (Tunisia v England)
• Shinji Kagawa (Japan v Colombia)
• Lionel Messi (Argentina v Iceland)
• Christian Cueva (Peru v Denmark)
"Our players were aggressive, and I think that worked very well for us.
"But this is just one win, so we will save our celebration."
Asian teams had managed only three draws in 17 matches previously against South American sides but the four-time Asian champions made their extra man count after Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez became the first player to get a red card in Russia.
His sending-off in the third minute, for a deliberate handball, was the second-fastest in World Cup history after Uruguay's Jose Batista was dismissed after 55 seconds against Scotland in 1986.
Shinji Kagawa scored from the resulting penalty to give Japan the lead.
Juan Quintero's clever low free kick in the 39th minute brought Colombia's equaliser but Yuya Osako leapt above his marker to head a corner into the net for the 73rd-minute winner.
It was also the second win for Asian teams at this World Cup, after Iran's 1-0 victory over Morocco in Group B.
Part of Nishino's remit since taking charge has been to instil an attacking brand of pressing football.
"We did not want to be always defensive," he said.
"We need to be able to play to our full, rather than be reactive to the opposition's strengths. If we are always defensive, the chance of victory is going to recede."
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said the defeat would be a "bitter memory" for his side, but he vowed that the way they fought back after conceding the first goal would propel them to victories in Group H.
"It was tough to lose a player so early. Despite that, we came back... but, with Japan having an extra player, it was very hard to recover possession," he said.
"The positive side of all this is that you could see the team managed to rise to the occasion and get an equaliser...
"If we can do that, it shows that we can make up for this first defeat in the next two matches."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE