FT World Cup 2018: Senegal held to a 2-2 draw by Japan

Senegal lose concentration late on and Japan snatch a draw after scoring a late goal in this 2-2 Group H duel.

Three African teams have already been knocked out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia namely; Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt. Senegal was the first team from the continent to pick up three points in the tournament so far before Nigeria learned from their mistakes and got back in the conversation as they beat Iceland.

On Sunday, 24th of June, Senegal were looking to repeating this feat as they matched up with fellow Group H member Japan. Les Lions de la Téranga coach, Aliou Cisse played around with his starting XI by switching the formation from 4-4-2 in the previous match to a 4-3-3 and accommodated Ndiaye in midfield. They started off well. It was in the 11th minute that Sadio Mane was accredited for scoring a goal for Senegal after Kawashima parried Youssouf Sabaly's shot into the feet of the Liverpool forward before the ball bounced off his shin and rolled into the net. Senegal continued to dominate in a first half that was typified by long balls and physical battles in the middle of the park. Japan came back into the match on the 34th minute through Inui’s curler that beat Khadim Ndiaye to level the matters.

Moussa Wague gave Senegal the lead for the second time in the match as he turned in Sabaly’s cross from a tight angle on the 71st minute. The Japanese coach made a bold decision of removing Shinji Kagawa and replaced him with Keisuke Honda before also throwing Shinji Okazaki into the match to rescue a point. The pair caused havoc in the opposition box, and it was written in the stars that they would leave a mark on the match. The Senegalese goalkeeper miscalculated a Japanese cross into the box and completely missed it which gifted Honda the opportunity to slot home just 7 minutes after Wague’s goal. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

In all fairness, both teams created opportunities to score and showed the desire to stay in the competition, desire that has been lacking in the other African teams that have already been eliminated at this stage. The only question remaining is the omission of a young player on the rise. Up until now, we have not seen Keita Balde in this tournament. The young winger is highly rated and widely regarded to be the next big thing but is still yet to kick a ball in this tournament. Could it be that they have been reserving for the most challenging match (against Colombia) which will be the decider?