Talking Points: Are Japan Asia's strongest team at the World Cup?
Written by: Debajit Sarma
The Blue Samurai came from behind twice to draw against the African heavyweights.
The first game of the second round of matches in Group H was a lively one. Senegal twice took the lead in Ekaterinburg, but Japan fought back brilliantly to come away with a share of the spoils forcing the game into a 2-2 draw.
We take a look at the five talking points from the clash.
5. Both teams paid a price for goalkeeping errors
Firstly, Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima parried a shot straight into the path of Sadio Mane that lead to the Blue Samurai going a goal down early in the game.
Then, it was the turn of opposition shot-stopper Khadim N’Diaye who misjudged a cross into the box, meant for his defenders to deal with, leaving the goal unguarded to allow substitute Keisuke Honda to drive home the second equaliser.
4. Japan grew into the game after a slow start
Japan found the physicality and pace of Senegal too hot to handle in the first quarter of the match, that saw the Africans deservingly taking the lead.
But, after that the Blue Samurai grew into the game. Their passing became more assured and they used the width of the pitch well. They nullified Senegal’s strengths impressively and even came close to taking the lead a couple of times.
3. Japan could have got more from the match had they been more effective in the final third.
Japan played their possession game well and also got into good positions with some quick passing. But, they were let down on a number of occasions because the final ball was poor.
Lone forward Yuya Osako who was so impressive in the game against Colombia, missed a golden chance in the 60th minute to give his team the lead, when he failed to connect with the ball with only the goalkeeper to beat.
2. Senegal’s long-ball football may not be so effective against stronger teams.
The African side playing in their first World Cup after 16 years moved a step closer to the knockout stages with this point. The Lions of Teranga looked to release their pacy wingers into the channels with the long ball forward without involving the midfielders much in the build-up.
That tactic had some success with Japan troubled by their pace and their tall and strong striker M’Baye Niang who harried both central defenders. But, that tactic may prove fruitless against more physical and organised teams.
1. Both teams are now in pole position to qualify for the knout stages
With this point, both the teams who were least fancied to qualify from this group have everything in their hands to move into the knockout rounds.
The two teams now need only a draw from their last group games to make it to the round of 16.
Published: Mon Jun 25, 2018 06:06 PM IST