Like we hoped yesterday, the Teranga Lions of Senegal rose to the occasion. It took a lot of work but they broke the jinx and defeated Poland 2-1 in Moscow. The Senegalese team came out strong from the start, taking the game to Poland and pressing high. In the 37th minute, Idrissa Gueye unleashed a shot that took a deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in no man’s land.
It got worse when M’Baye Niang took advantage of an amateurish play between the Poles to poke the ball past the keeper. Arsenal fans would be familiar with seeing the former goalkeeper at the site of a disaster. A late rally that produced a fine header from Grzegorz Krychowiak closed the gap to a goal deficit. Senegal didn’t care and went dancing at the end of 90 minutes. It was a well-deserved win.
Their coach Aliou Cisse- who at 42 years old is the youngest manager at the world cup this year- could be chasing history if this team goes far. He was the captain of the 2002 team that reached the quarterfinals. What a remarkable feat it would be if it happens again.
The other group game between Columbia and Japan was also one for the history books: defender Carlos Sanchez became the first player to receive a red card at Russia 2018 after only three minutes for a deliberate handball. In the box. Madness.
Shingi Kagawa’s penalty gave Japan the lead while Juan Fernando Quintero levelled the scores before halftime with a delicious freekick. But with ten men for practically the entire game, it was inevitable that Columbia would cave in. Yuya Osako beat David Ospina and won the game for Japan. (Again, look away Arsenal fans…)
In the end, Japan became the first Asian side to defeat South American opposition at the world cup.
Egypt- as we suspected- became the first team to face an early exit from the world cup. Host Russia took no prisoners in their 3-1 win against the North African side. Ahmed Fathi gave Russia the lead through an unfortunate own goal. Fifteen minutes later, two more goals from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba ensured that their team was safely qualified for the Round of 16.
Egypt, on the other hand, couldn’t be helped by a Mo Salah penalty and now face a first-round departure. After his superb season with Liverpool, Salah was the man many imagined would carry Egypt far in the tournament. But the man was a shadow of himself, obviously still struggling a bit following his Champions League shoulder dislocation. With two defeats from two games, -3 goals, they would be hoping for a blitz against Saudi Arabia and an unlikely Russia drubbing by Uruguay in order to get through to the next round. Let the permutation games begin!