A third minute red card for Carlos Sanchez proved costly for Colombia who fell to a 2-1 defeat to Japan in the Mordovia Arena.
It was a frantic start in Saransk as we were given the first red card of this World Cup. Davinson Sanchez failed to deal with a long ball, Yuri Osako missed his chance, but on the rebound, Carlos Sanchez left his arm outstretched blocking a shot from Shinji Kagawa, straight red.
Kagawa calmly converted the ninth penalty of the tournament to give Japan a shock lead.
Yet, Japan didn’t seize the opportunity to capitalise on the man advantage as Colombia re-organised and grew in confidence.
This became evident from the genius of Juan Quintero. The Porto playmaker guided a free kick under the Japanese wall and acutely over the line, despite Kawashima trying to defy technology claiming he saved it.
It seemed as if the red card never happened with both sides intent on attacking and earning a positive start to their campaigns.
David Ospina hasn’t convinced many in the Premier League but he was assured and produced two fine saves to deny Osako in the second half.
The introduction of James Rodriguez seemed destined to swing it Colombia’s way but Keisuke Honda’s impact was more immediate.
His influence brought the Asian nation a corner, which he swung over for Osako to rise highest and re-establish their lead on 74 minutes.
Osako went from goal-scorer to goal-saver with a last-ditch slide blocking a goal-bound effort from Rodriguez in the latter stages.
A vital win for Japan has them leading the way in what many are calling the tightest group in the World Cup, alongside Poland and Senegal, this all coming despite them changing manager just 70 days before the World Cup.