World Cup Group H in roller coaster transition

Matches of Group H in the 2018 World Cup have been a roller coaster, Senegal equalizing with Japan and Colombia outclassing Poland, keeping fate of teams hang on balance. England, on the other hand, secured a comfortable 6-1 win over Panama.

A tough match was held at the Ekaterinburg Arena where Senegal and Japan swap goals, with the African side leading and Asian opponent catching up to equalise.

The game kicked off with Senegal looking more lethal on the pitch with ferocious speed moving forward in a 4-3-3 formation, to put the pressure on the Japanese team.

The Senegalese pressure was on point when a defensive disaster occured for Japan in the 11th minute with a poor ball clearance, paving way for team captain Sadio Mane to score the opener to give his team the lead.

The pressure continued on the Japanese defence, but they were still able to come up with a chance after trying to deliver passes from the midfield to the flanks or behind the back-four. It eventually paid off in the 24th minute when Takashi Inui found the net through a curling ball into the far corner, after a fine set-up from Yuto Nagatomo.

The second half toughened up as both sides create pressure with the Japanese team finding more space in the midfield to recovering possession quickly.

Ninteen year old Moussa Wague scored an excellent finisher for Senegal in the 71st minute, from a spectacular set up by Youssouf Sabaly from the left side to reach Wague in the far right putting the ball in the net to regain the lead.

Japan was rescued shortly by Keisuke Honda who was substituted in the 72nd minute and scored the equaliser in the 78th, to make history as the first Japanese player to score at three different World Cups.

Aliou Cisse, Senegal’s coach was not satisfied saying, “Of course we have regrets. We must acknowledge that we didn’t see a great Senegalese performance tonight in comparison to the match against Poland. We were not very good frankly, and Japan were the better team, I have to admit that. But despite that fact, we led twice and what’s annoying for me is the two goals we conceded.” Cisse added, “Japan played as expected; they are very technical team with such good quality in that respect. Now we have to hope for the best when we face Colombia.” The Japanese manager, Akira Nishino said, “It was a tough match, and we always knew it was going to be tough. We knew Senegal were not a team we could win easily against. But the team were calm after conceding goals and it was positive that we were able to equalize twice.” Nishino added, “We constructed attacks well and played in our rhythm. The substitutions also worked well and I think I did very well with the timing of those. The players were very confident and positive, and I myself thought we could have gone for the victory.” Colombia revived its hopes to advance to World Cup round of 16, beating Poland 3-0 in the second leg of Group H.

Colombia were in control of the game since the beginning and were pressing hard to score a goal.

The pressure continued until Yerry Mina rises over the Polish goalkeeper and headed the cross from James Rodriguez in the 40-minute mark.

Polish players came to the second half but were not convincing, and both teams were trading attacks on both ends.

Colombia captain Radamel Falcao finally scored.

He received the ball from Quintero while being on-side and struck the ball underneath the Colombian goalkeeper in 70th minute.

This was a special moment for Falcao who missed the 2014 World Cup in Brazil due to injury, battling back to be fit for the tournament and scoring his first goal in a world cup.

Juan Cuadrado made it three to Colombia. The Juventus midfielder received an assist from Rodriguez and bursted through into Poland’s box, nudging the shot into bottom-right corner in 75th minute.

Colombia has three points now. Poland is eliminated.

Poland coach Adam Nawalka praised his players for doing their best despite the loss.

“I think that our players really played their best until the very end of the game but we lost against a very strong team and this is what we have to accept,” he said after the match.

He said the match was “pretty level until we conceded the first goal.

“Then, we changed our system to a more offensive one and I’m very sorry and sad that we lost,” said Nawalka.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said there was no room for mistakes.

“We shouldered that responsibility fully but with a beautiful game and creative football. The team played as a unit and the football emerged from this unity. It led to the goals and now we have a good position in this World Cup.” Colombia lost their first match against Japan.

Pekerman said his team “have grown a great deal, my players are self-critical, they are competitive, they are ambitious. They can overcome the lows and they give us hope.”

Meanwhile, Group G now has a new leader after England beat Panama 6-1, as the English players stack up their goals and Harry Kane ending the match with a hat-trick, while Panama bag their first ever World Cup goal at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

The opening goal comes early for the English side in the 8th minute with John Stones all alone in the penalty spot to nod it in for his first goal in Russia 2018.

England goes to double their lead after a penalty granted by the referee when Jesse Lingard was fouled inside the box by Escobar, to give Harry Kane his third goal in the World Cup after a confidently putting the ball into the top corner.

In the 36th minute a fabulous finish by the Manchester United player Lingard, curling the ball into the top right corner for his first World Cup goal at age 25, after a neat exchange with Raheem Sterling extending the lead 3-0.

In the last five minutes before the first half was over England scored two new goals, with another by Stones in the 40th minute, nodding in another at the back post from less than a yard out following a save by the Panama goalkeeper.

Kane was fouled inside the box, and the England captain successfully converted into the net, hitting the same spot in the first minute of additional time.

Five goals for England in a World Cup match for the first time in history just in the first half, and Kane now only the second player to score in each of England’s opening games at a World Cup.

After the first half, it seemed Panama is set to be going home before their third match, with such a deficit in goals, needing a miracle to overcome.

Kane goes to enter the World Cup hat-trick club in the 62nd minute when he deflected the ball home after a long distance shot by Ruben Loftus, which he called lucky saying, “The third one is probably one of the luckiest goals of my career but as a striker you go through spells when you’re scoring, sometimes they don’t fall for you.” Despite England leading with two goals, Panama was still keen on pushing forward creating chances while still finding space to move the ball past the English defenders.

Panama was able to reclaim some pride in the 78th minute to score a goal by their captain Felipe Baloy as he slides in to turn the ball home from a set piece, pleasing the Panama fans in the Novgorod stadium, with an official attendance of 43,319.

Kane surpasses Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku for the top scorer position in Russia 2018 leading with five goals.

Panama was in need of one point to stay alive in the competition after today’s match, and England goes to lead Group G along with Belgium with both teams confirming their spot in the round of 16, to face off in the last game of the group stage as each side will want to claim first place position.

England manager Gareth Southgate said he was pleased with the result and it was important to “our resilience and sticking to our principles of play.” He added, “For me, just before halftime the game was done today, so it was a very strange feeling watching the second half just trying to encourage the players to remain professional in the way that they played and be a top team by being ruthless.” Despite Panama’s defeat, their manager Hernan Gomez was pleased with his team’s only goal saying, “Felipe Baloy scored that goal and I felt very moved. He’s a player who will be retiring from the national team and God gave him the opportunity to score that goal because of the way he conducts himself in football and he’s such a professional. When you are debutant you enjoy it even more enjoyable.” Gomez added, “I’ve had to play against two spectacular opponents – Belgium and England. But that’s how you learn and draw conclusions.” Panama was in need of one point to stay alive in the competition after today’s match, and England goes to lead Group G along with Belgium with both teams confirming their spot in the round of 16, to face off in the last game of the group stage as each side will want to claim first place position.

Source: Kuwait News Agency