YEKATERINBURG, Russia, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - Japan will look to further explore their attacking potential when they face Senegal in a battle of the surprise contenders to advance to the knockout stage from Group H on Sunday.
The Blue Samurai have largely worked on keeping things tight at the back since head coach Akira Nishino took over from the sacked Vahid Halilhodzic in April but saw their attack shift gears in Tuesday's 2-1 win over 10-man Colombia in Saransk.
"We had to start by building the base, which is defence," midfielder Genki Haraguchi told Kyodo news agency. "But with that base in place, our ability to attack and respond to different situations is increasing."
Victory saw Japan become the first Asian side to beat South American opponents at the World Cup but they are fully aware that Senegal, who scored an upset 2-1 win over Poland, could pose a sterner test at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
"We must keep our feet on the ground... we have to take into account that we played against 10 men for almost 90 minutes," skipper Makoto Hasebe said, referring to Carlos Sanchez's dismissal which gave Japan the advantage against Colombia.
"The next game will be a different story, we have to think about that," the defensive midfielder added.
Senegal come into the match equally high on confidence after a strong defensive display in Moscow helped them neutralise the Polish attack led by Robert Lewandowski.
"Senegal won due to discipline," coach Aliou Cisse, captain of the side which beat holders France in their first ever World Cup match in 2002, said. "You saw a Senegal team very solid, very compact."
With 10 of their starting XI from the last match playing in Europe, including Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal resemble a well-drilled European side and could make life tough for Japan.
Playing in their first World Cup in 16 years, Senegal carry the hopes of Africa with Egypt and Morocco out while Nigeria and Tunisia both losing their opening games.
Japan, who will bank on goalscorers Shinji Kagawa and Yuya Osako as well as Keisuke Honda to provide thrust going forward, are confident they have what it takes to seal a third trip to the last 16 -- the furthest they have reached at a World Cup.
Progress could result in a possible meeting with England or Belgium but Nishino is not looking too far ahead. "We'll focus on showing our strength in the next match," he said.
VOLGOGRAD, Russia, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez will be relieved about one thing. His third-minute dismissal in the team's opener with Japan on Tuesday at the World Cup isn't the fastest in the tournament's history.
That honor remains in the hands of Uruguay defender Jose Batista, who was shown a red card against Scotland at the 1986 World Cup inside the first minute.
Still, Sanchez is second in the all-time list and his dismissal means there are now three players in the history of the World Cup who have been sent off inside the first 10 minutes.
JOSE BATISTA, 1986
Batista, a defender, was shown a red card in the 52nd second of a group match against a Scotland team coached by Alex Ferguson, after he brought down midfielder Gordon Strachan at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It could have been even earlier as the foul was committed in the 39th second - it took the French referee Joel Quiniou a full 13 seconds to brandish the card.
Despite having a one-man advantage for nearly the whole match, the game ended 0-0 and Scotland was eliminated.
Batista, who unlike some of the other players in that Uruguay side didn't have much of a reputation as a bruiser, appears to have come to terms with his place in World Cup history.
"I work at a football academy and I coach an amateur team, and I always hear, 'You know who this guy is? He's the one that got sent off.' So I get my phone out and show them the tackle," Batista said in an interview posted on FIFA.com in 2016.
CARLOS SANCHEZ, 2018
The Colombian holding midfielder's offense wasn't as blatant as Batista's but he was sent off by Slovenian referee Damir Skomina for handling the ball.
Sanchez had struck out his arm to stop a shot that looked bound for the Colombian net at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk.
It was costly. Shinji Kagawa converted the ensuing penalty to give Japan the lead. And though Colombia managed to get back on level terms in the 39th minute with a smart free-kick from Juan Quintero, Japan's man-advantage was evident in the second half. Yuya Osako sealed the win with a powerful header in the 73rd minute.
GEORGIO FERRINI, 1962
The Italian's sending-off in the 1962 World Cup took place during what is arguably the dirtiest game in World Cup history. Italy versus Chile will forever be known as the "Battle of Santiago."
The 66,000 fans at Chile's national stadium witnessed spitting, two-footed challenges, punches, scuffles and even police intervention.
Referee Ken Aston, who later invented the yellow and red card system in place from the 1970 World Cup, took to the field fearful of what was to come. The backdrop to the game had already added an edge to the match with Italian reporters maligning Chile as a country.
In the eighth minute, Aston sent off midfielder Ferrini for a violent foul on a Chile player. Ferrini refused to leave the field and was eventually escorted off by police.
Arguably, the violence only got worse. Italy defender Mario David was also sent off after he high-kicked at Leonel Sanchez's throat. Sanchez, the son of a professional boxer, should have been sent off himself after breaking Humberto Maschio's nose with a punch.
Italy, down to nine men, held on until two late goals saw Chile win 2-0.
Before the "Battle of Santiago," the match that was perhaps the most violent in World Cup history had taken place at the 1938 World Cup in France when Brazil took on Czechoslovakia.
According to British journalist Brian Glanville, there was "carnage" in the quarterfinal match in Bordeaux.
Zeze, a midfielder, was sent off in the 14th minute for kicking out at Czechoslovakia forward Oldrich Nejedly, who ended up with a broken leg.
Also sent off were Czechoslovakia striker Jan Riha and Brazilian defender Arthur Machado for trading punches in the 89th minute.
The match ended 1-1 and the two sides had to replay two days later, again in Bordeaux. This time, there were no expulsions and Brazil came through 2-1.
Sanchez's red card means that Zeze is no longer one of the three fastest sending offs in World Cup history.
SARANSK, Russia, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Japan beat 10-man Colombia 2-1 in Group H on Tuesday to become the first Asian side to beat a South American one at the World Cup.
Asian teams had managed three draws in 17 matches against South American sides but the four-times 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 equalizer but Yuya Osako leapt above his marker to head a corner into the net for the 73rd-minute winner.
It was sweet revenge for Japan, who were thumped 4-1 by Colombia in Brazil four years ago, but they wasted plenty of chances to kill the game off.
Kagawa went close in the 16th minute but his shot rolled past the post and Osako fired against the face of goal from a dangerous position in the box.
With Japan dominating in midfield, Colombia's Argentine coach Jose Pekerman opted to sacrifice Juan Cuadrado around the half hour mark to send on defensive midfielder Wilmar Barrios.
That gave Colombia extra control and their all-time leading scorer and captain Radamel Falcao came more into the game.
Falcao, making his World Cup debut after missing the last tournament in Brazil due to injury, showed his hunger when he stretched full length to get his foot to an overhead cross but did not have the power to beat the goalkeeper.
Genki Haraguchi's foul on Falcao earned Colombia a foul on the edge of the box and Quintero fired a low free kick under the leaping wall. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and by the time he got his hands to the ball, it had crossed the line.
Pekerman introduced James Rodriguez, who did not start due to a calf problem, in the 59th minute but the Golden Boot winner in Brazil was unable to change the course of the match.
SARANSK, Russia, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Japan beat 10-man Colombia 2-1 in their opening Group H match on Tuesday, the first time an Asian team has overcome a South American one at the World Cup.
Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez was sent off in the third minute for deliberate handball - the second fastest red card in World Cup history.
Shinji Kagawa scored the resulting penalty to put Japan 1-0 up in the sixth minute, but Juan Quintero equalised with a low free kick which squeezed over the line shortly before halftime.
After the break, Japan pressed a tired Colombia side and Yuya Osako grabbed the winner with a glancing header in the 73rd minute.
Colombia attacking midfielder James Rodriguez, who was left out of the starting line-up due to muscle pain, replaced Quintero in the 59th minute but failed to change the course of the match.
SARANSK, Russia, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Ten-man Colombia and Japan were level at 1-1 at halftime in their 2018 World Cup Group H match on Tuesday.
Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez was sent off in the third minute for deliberate handball and Shinji Kagawa's penalty put Japan 1-0 ahead. It was the second fastest red card in World Cup history.
Colombia equalised six minutes before the interval when Juan Quintero's low free kick squeezed over the line.
MOSCOW, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The first red card of the World Cup has been awarded against Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez for handling a goal-bound shot in the area in the fifth minute against Japan. Shinji Kagawa slotted the resultant penalty to give Japan an early 1-0 lead.
More than 10,000 Colombian fans at the stadium jeered.
Four years ago Japan was beaten 4-1 by Colombia also during group stage in Brazil.
Minutes earlier, the kick-off was delayed after the teams had to switch directions.