Japan vs Senegal – Sunday, June 24, 16:00BST/17:00CEST/18:00 MSK – Ekaterinburg-Arena, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Japan and Senegal both surprised on matchday 1 by shocking their respective opponents, Colombia and Poland respectively, to each take three points from the opening match. For both countries, it was a perfect start to the tournament and both Japan and Senegal will now look to make a decisive step towards the round of 16.
Japan managed their sensation against Colombia. Up a man, early Japan managed their first victory against a team against a South American side with a 2-1 victory. The Blue Samurai have flown under the radar ahead of the tournament and were by many deemed the big outsiders in the group.
Well-organised by head coach Akiro Nishino Japan, however, took full advantage after Carlos Sánchez handled the ball in the box and was sent off. Shinji Kagawa stepped up and converted the penalty and even after Colombia equalised in the 39th minute Japan stayed calm executing their game plan until Yuya Osako eventually produced the game-winning goal in the 73rd minute.
Senegal, in the meantime, are working on yet another World Cup sensation. 16-years ago at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea Senegal beat France at the opening game and would then move on to the quarterfinals where they were eliminated by Turkey.
After that, however, Senegal failed to make an appearance at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups and it was not until 2002 World Cup hero Aliou Cissé took over Les Lions de la Téranga that Senegal began to recreate the performances of the 2002 generation.
Cissé, in fact, is considered as one of the emerging coaching talents Africa. Speaking of Africa Cissé was quick to dedicate the victory to “the whole African continent.” Senegal, alongside Nigeria, are the only two Subsaharan nations competing at the World Cup this summer and as there might be something to the statement. But Cissé is also humble enough to understand that nothing has been achieved yet. “It is a bit to early [to talk about winning the World Cup]. Winning the first match, of course, means you start at the right place. The second and third match are also important,” Cissé quickly added.
That second match will now take Senegal to Ekaterinburg where they will face an equally confident Japan side. One of the two can make a decisive step towards the second round but with both sides in form, the likeliest result is an entertaining draw.
Japan vs Senegal – Players to look out for:
Yuya Osako #15 – Japan (1.FC Köln)
Yuya Osako scored the game-winning goal for Japan against Colombia on Tuesday. The striker was excellent throughout the game exploiting the space given to him by Colombia, who were struggling with a man less on the pitch. For Osako, the World Cup could become a period of redemption after a season to forget with 1.FC Köln. Relegated at the end of the season Osako has since secured a move to Werder Bremen and a strong World Cup could set the stage for successful period at his new club.
M’Baye Niang #19 – Senegal (Torino)
M’Baye Niang would score in what would turn out the game-winner for Senegal against Poland on matchday 1. The striker has the potential to become a typical World Cup star. Despite his obvious talent Niang failed to impress at AC Milan and FC Watford, where he played on loan. Only at Torino has he been able to somewhat show his potential, which the 23-year-old is now hoping to further underline at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Scoring goals will certainly help and in that regard, Niang is already off to a good start.
Japan vs Senegal – Match Stats
- Japan and Senegal meet for the fourth time. The Africans are still undefeated against Japan (W2 D1).
- The last match between the two countries ended in a 1-0 victory for Senegal during a friendly in 2003.
- For the first time ever, Senegal face an Asian country at the World Cup.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Japan vs Senegal – 1-1
Japan vs Senegal – Lineups
Kawashima – Nagatomo, Shinji, Yoshido, Sakai – Hasebe, Shibasaki – Inui, Kagawa, Haraguchi – Osaka
Head Coach: Akiro Nishino
Khadim N’Diaye – Sabaly, Koulibaly, Sané, Wagué – Alfred N’Diaye, Gueye – Mané, Sarr – Niang, Diouf
Head Coach: Aliou Cissé
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.