YEKATERINBURG, Russia – Keisuke Honda sat on the bench for 72 minutes, knowing a goal would make him the first Japanese player to score at three World Cups.
Six minutes later, it was a done deal.
The former AC Milan forward scored in the 78th minute, knocking the ball past two defenders standing on the goal line, to give Japan a 2-2 draw with Senegal on Sunday at the World Cup.
The 32-year-old Honda also scored at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He has 37 international goals in his career.
“I believe I used substitutions very well in looking back,” said Japan coach Akira Nishino, who took over shortly before the tournament started. “Honda was moved from center to the wide side and he was very versatile at adapting to that position.
“We really wanted to win, we wanted to equalize and also take the lead even though there was only a short period of time left.”
The draw keeps both teams at the top of Group H ahead of their final matches. Japan will next face Poland in Volgograd on Thursday while Senegal faces Colombia in Samara.
Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead in the 11th minute with his first World Cup goal.
The Liverpool forward tapped the ball into the net after goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was unable to control a shot from Youssouf Sabaly.
“The ball touched my foot and went into the net,” Mane said. “It was really just the foot on the ball.”
Japan struck back in the 34th minute when Takashi Inui scored with Japan’s first shot on goal, but Moussa Wague restored the lead with a shot high into the net in the 71st.
A minute later, Nishino sent on Honda and striker Shinji Okazaki.
Senegal outshot Japan 14-7 and had five shots on target. Japan had only two.
“Frankly speaking, I think we are a bit disappointed,” Mane said. “And that’s normal because there was a way to win this match.”
Aliou Cisse, the coach of Senegal and the captain of the 2002 team that reached the quarterfinals, said his team needs to be more aggressive.
“We need to have more concentration and be more rigorous,” Cisse said. “We didn’t lose today. We didn’t play a great game, but we didn’t lose.”
COLOMBIA 3, POLAND 0KAZAN, Russia – Four years after Radamel Falcao was supposed to lead Colombia at the World Cup, he’s doing just that.
Falcao missed the tournament in Brazil with a knee injury and had to wait until arriving in Russia to score his first World Cup goal. It came in Colombia’s 3-0 victory over Poland on Sunday.
“It’s a dream goal,” Falcao said. “I’m happy for the victory, for the team’s performance and the goal that I scored, which I’ve been waiting for for many years.”
The victory kept Colombia in the running for a spot in the round of 16 and knocked out Poland, the first European country to be eliminated.
Falcao, Colombia’s all-time leading scorer with 30 goals, made sure he would stay healthy for this year’s World Cup by sitting out several matches with his Monaco club this season.
So far, so good.
“We always hope that he can score and hope that he can be fit as he was today, and we want to help him,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “I think the fact that he scored was very important, not just for today but for the matches to come.
“He is a symbol of the national team. He is a symbol of Colombian football.”
Playing some scintillating soccer in Kazan, Falcao scored with the outside of his foot in the 70th minute after a superb pass from playmaker Juan Quintero in the back of the defense.
Yerry Mina scored the first goal in the 40th and Juan Cuadrado completed the win in the 75th.
Both teams lost their Group H openers and knew another loss would end their hopes of advancing. Colombia will next face Senegal on Thursday in Samara with a chance to win the group, while Poland will play Japan in Volgograd.
Mina out-jumped the Poland defense to head in the opening goal from James Rodriguez’s cross, rewarding a spell of domination by the Colombians.
Rodriguez’s through ball after Poland lost possession in midfield led to the final goal. Cuadrado collected the pass and rushed toward the box, timing his shot perfectly to beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Poland got off to an aggressive start in the hot and humid Tatarstan capital, pressing high and winning most of the duels in the opening minutes.
Colombia gradually settled in, though, with Quintero providing attacking width and Cuadrado proving dangerous with his subtle moves on the edge of the box.
ENGLAND 6, PANAMA 1NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia – With two penalties and an accidental deflection, Harry Kane moved ahead of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo and put England into the round of 16 at the World Cup.
Kane scored half of England’s goals Sunday in a 6-1 rout of Panama, the national team’s largest-ever margin of victory at the World Cup.
“The third one is probably one of the luckiest ones of my career,” said Kane, who took the game ball to the locker room. “Sometimes you go through spells where you are scoring and sometimes it doesn’t fall for you.
“Not many players get to score a hat trick in a World Cup.”
Kane has scored a tournament-leading five goals at the World Cup in Russia, one more than Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku. He also has 18 for England’s national team, one more than Beckham.
Sterner tests await, starting with Thursday’s game against Belgium. England and Belgium are level on points and goal difference and will play for first place in the group.
England showed it wasn’t only reliant on Kane, who couldn’t find the net at the 2016 European Championship. John Stones headed in two goals and Jesse Lingard curled in another.
However much they tried, Panama struggled to block England’s route to goal. Anibal Gody resorted to trying to wrestle Kane to the ground, only to concede a penalty that was converted by the Tottenham striker.
England was merciless. At 5-0, the job was complete by halftime.
“I said ‘Look, I am starting to feel scared. We can’t actually try to equalize. We can’t even reduce this distance. All we can do is try to stop England so they can’t score more goals,’” Panama coach Hernan Gomez said. “We were feeling rather frightened.”
Chasing the golden boot, Kane relied on his heel to complete his hat trick by getting the faintest of touches to divert Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot into the net. England completed 25 passes in the buildup, the most in any World Cup match since 1966, according to Opta.
England could afford to ease up and preserve energy but it cost the team first place on goal difference. Felipe Baloy slid to meet Ricardo Avila’s free kick and score Panama’s first World Cup goal.