Senegal twice let the lead slip and had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Japan in an enthralling Group H World Cup clash at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
The Lions of Teranga drew first blood, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, as a nervous Japanese defence failed to clear their lines and goalkeeper Eji Kawashima’s parry went off Sadio Mane’s knee and into the net.
Having conceded later in the half, they again found themselves in the lead in the second stanza when 19-year-old Moussa Wagué hammered high into the net from an acute angle after great work on the flank from Mane and Bordeaux right-back Youssouf Sabaly. With his goal coming against the run of play, Wagué became the second teenager to score at the tournament after France’s Kylian Mbappe and the youngest-ever African.
There were concerns about an ageing Japanese side’s ability to deal with the raw physicality of the hulking West Africans before the game, but the wily Asians were able to hit back twice through Takashi Inui and the veteran Keisuke Honda to claim a point.
Both teams are still in with a chance of progressing, but the Senegalese will have to come up against group powerhouse Colombia in their final group fixture. They would have loved to have put away the Japanese to put some daylight between them and their group rivals.
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The South Americans dumped top 10-ranked Poland out of the tournament with a second-half surge in Kazan. Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado got the goals and James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero provided the assists as Colombia put the World Cup’s superpowers on a notice with a consummate display of counter-attacking football.
In Group G action, after flattering to deceive in their win against Tunisia, England overwhelmed Panama, scoring five goals in the first-half in a one-side encounter in a steamy Nizhny Novgorod.
Manchester City defender John Stones grabbed a brace and Jesse Lingard scored a screamer, while skipper Harry Kane completed a hat-trick that included two penalty conversions to see the Three Lions swagger to a 6-1 rout, their biggest-ever win in an international tournament.
Kane became the first player since Italy’s Paolo Rossi to score a hat-trick and a brace in consecutive games and rocketed past Cristiano Ronaldo to lead the race for the Golden Boot.
English fans will be champing at the bit to watch their team’s showdown with Belgium on Thursday to decide the top spot of Group G after the astounding defeat of the Central Americans. Look out for that to be the game of the week – I’m going for England to edge their continental rivals, with Kane firing and their knowledge of Belgium’s Premier League contingent.