Four years after falling to Colombia at the end of the World Cup group stage, Japan opened its time in Russia with a 2-1 victory to open Group H play.
Shinji Kagawa and Yuya Osako scored for the Blue Samurai, who took advantage of an early red card to Carlos Sanchez.
Sanchez was sent off before any player settled into the game, as he deliberately handled the ball in the third minute.
Kagawa took advantage of the early opportunity and slotted home Japan’s first goal from the spot.
Although the team was down a man, Colombia fought hard to remain in the game, and it earned an equalizer in the 39th minute by way of Juan Quintero.
The midfielder rolled a free kick underneath the leaping wall and tucked it into the bottom-right corner of the net before Eiji Kawashima was able to get to the ball.
Los Cafeteros hung in the contest for parts of the second half, as David Ospina came up with a few saves before he was beaten by Osako on a set piece in the 73rd minute.
Osako worked his way through a pack of players and nodded a shot into the right part of the net.
Although Colombia tried to produce chances in the attacking third through substitute James Rodriguez, it couldn’t get the job done.
Both teams return to the field Sunday, as Colombia faces Poland and Japan takes on Senegal.
Man of the Match
Yuya Osako put in a strong effort on both ends of the field, and he provided Japan with three points on his 73rd-minute game-winner.
Moment of the Match
Sanchez’s red card changed the dynamic of the match. It forced Colombia to alter its shape and Jose Pekerman to adjust his tactics, which were admittedly a bit odd. Japan was able to score early off Kagawa’s penalty kick and Colombia couldn’t attack at full strength.
Match to Forget
Sanchez earned the second-fastest red card in World Cup history for his boneheaded handball in the box.