Tuesday 17 July 2018

Sanchez moment of madness costs Colombia

Colombia 1 Japan 2

Colombia's Carlos Sanchez is sent off by referee Damir Skomina. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Colombia's Carlos Sanchez is sent off by referee Damir Skomina. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Split-second decisions are so often what decides elite sport. On a roasting-hot day in Saransk, Carlos Sanchez's impulsive use of the arm to block a goal-bound shot ultimately cost his side immensely in an engrossing fixture that saw Japan upset 10-man Colombia to take revenge for their 4-1 thumping four years ago.

In the end it was a result that places Colombia in trouble, having begun the tournament as the team fancied to top the fascinating clash of cultures that is Group H.

And while circumstances dictated that they didn't outplay Japan, they matched them at times when short-handed, showing immense character and cool heads after former Aston Villa man Sanchez had lost his, receiving a red card for deliberate handball in the opening minutes.

It was as bad a start as Jose Pekerman, the wily, veteran coach of the Cafeteros could have hoped for as a goal-bound shot from Shinji Kagawa was deflected wide by Sanchez's upper arm and a penalty awarded. The resultant red card condemned Colombia to 85 minutes of 10-v-11, a punishing task against an opponent with the industry and spark of Japan.

Kagawa converted from the spot and the uphill task got steeper but in many ways it levelled the sides. At full strength - albeit with James Rodriguez only fit for a place on the bench - Colombia could reasonably be expected to overpower the Samurai Blue but with James watching on from the sidelines and Sanchez from the dressing room, Japan knew they had their shot.

The one ray of hope for Colombia was Juan Fernando Quintero whose brilliant free-kick snuck under the Japanese wall to equalise. As they tried to hold on for a draw in a game they'd hoped to win, Colombia wilted with 17 minutes remaining as Yuya Osako heading home from Keisuke Honda's corner as David Ospina hesitated to come for the ball.

Japan's Yuya Osako celebrates scoring their second goal with Yuto Nagatomo. Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
Japan's Yuya Osako celebrates scoring their second goal with Yuto Nagatomo. Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

The knockout stages are not out of the question for the Colombians, but they'll need a helping hand from others, just not from Sanchez.

Japan's Hiroki Sakai in action with Colombia's James Rodriguez. Photo: Darren Staples/
Japan's Hiroki Sakai in action with Colombia's James Rodriguez. Photo: Darren Staples/

Irish Independent

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