Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
Japan and Senegal drew 2-2 in Group H at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Sunday after Sadio Mane, Takashi Inui, Moussa Wague and Keisuke Honda all scored at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
Errors from both goalkeepers proved significant as Eiji Kawashima punched onto Mane for Senegal’s first, while Khadim N’Diaye flapped at a cross to allow Honda to equalise 12 minutes from time.
The stalemate leaves both nations on four points and still uncertain of qualification. They will discover their fate Thursday, June 28, when Japan face Poland and Senegal take on Colombia in the final group matches.
Senegal’s Counterattack Should Put Potential Last-16 Opponents on High Alert
Neither England nor Belgium should be welcoming the chance of facing Senegal in the round of 16. The Lions of Teranga are proving one of the tournament’s deadliest teams on the break.
Pace, power, timing, direct running and ruthless finishing are making Senegal effective on the counter. Most of the ruthlessness in front of goal comes from Liverpool star Mane, who made the most of his chances, as well as Japan’s blunders at the back:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Sadio Mane at the #WorldCup:
Shots on target: 1
The seventh player to score for #SEN at the tournament. https://t.co/XEw6K7oxAi
4 – Sadio Mané 🇸🇳 has scored with only his 4th touch v Japan today. Hitman. #JAPSEN #WorldCup https://t.co/bMM3vuX7GQ
Thankfully for coach Aliou Cisse, it isn’t all about Mane. M’Baye Niang and Ismaila Sarr can also cover the ground quickly to turn defence into attack in an instant:
Yousef Teclab @yousef_teclab
Senegal look really good. Mane, Niang and Sarr look such a dangerous menace. #JPNSEN
This level of pace and strength is going to trouble any defence.
England defenders won’t fancy the prospect of trying to subdue Mane, who has given them enough problems in the Premier League. If the things stay the same in the tables, the Three Lions will face that task in the next round:
Gary Lineker @GaryLineker
I reckon Senegal would be the most dangerous of the possible opponents that England could face in the last 16.
Whoever Senegal’s last-16 opponents are will have a tough enough time breaking down a back line ably protected by formidable enforcers Idrissa Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyate and underpinned by Napoli central defensive colossus Kalidou Koulibaly.
If England or Belgium commit too many men forward to force an opening, Mane and Co. will quickly punish them going the other way.
Sarr’s World Cup Performances Should Draw Summer Transfer Interest
Mane is already established as a marquee attacker, but Sarr could be the next Senegal forward to make it big based on his exceptional performances in Russia.
Ed Aarons @ed_aarons
Sarr is another product of the fantastic Generation Foot academy that produced Sadio Mane, Papiss Cisse and many others
The 20-year-old Stade Rennais ace was a standout during the win over Colombia and wasted no time carrying the fight to Japan. His pace, strength and trickery on the right flank caused the Blue Samurai a host of problems.
While his final ball was a little inconsistent, Sarr looked a bargain based on his first-half display:
Yousef Teclab @yousef_teclab
Senegal winger Ismalia Sarr is direct and had bundles of pace. Can see why Rennes paid €17m for him last season. #JPNSEN
Sarr’s breakout performances already have some anticipating where he’ll play in the future:
It’s not unreasonable to think this lively youngster would worry Premier League defences. If he varies his movement and refines his final product the way Mane did, Sarr will surely have a similar impact sooner rather than later.
A World Cup is the ideal shop window for any player, with big fees usually stumped up based on a handful of exciting moments. Sarr is delivering those, so his club should already be thinking about what it would take to sell him.
Inui Emerges as Japan’s Danger Man Ahead of Established Names
Inui is no youngster suddenly making his name. Instead, the 30-year-old has steadily impressed for La Liga side Eibar enough to earn a move to Real Betis this summer.
Betis fans should be excited based on what Inui has produced so far in Russia, where he’s emerged as Japan’s danger man ahead of more established names.
Coming into the tournament, Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund fame, as well as Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki, were expected to be Japan’s main threats.
Yet through two matches, it’s Inui who has stood out above the rest. His terrific curling effort on 34 minutes summed up the magic this versatile wide forward is capable of:
Inui has made a happy habit of scoring for his country:
3 – Takashi Inui 🇯🇵 has scored 3 goals in his last 3 games with Japan, more than in his first 26 (2). Skills. #JAPSEN #WorldCup https://t.co/sDrBcGRZzj
He was desperately unfortunate to clip the bar after a swift break just after the hour mark. Even so, Inui was the one Japan player who looked capable of breaking Senegal down every time he got on the ball:
Kevin Beirne @KevBeirne
Senegalese defenders feeling a sort of existential dread every time Inui gets on the ball.
His dazzling efforts were in sharp contrast to a subdued Kagawa, who was substituted in the 72nd minute having failed to provide the creativity Japan needed.
While many may have looked to mainstays such as Kagawa and Okazaki to carry the Blue Samurai, Inui is becoming his nation’s leading light and their best means of securing qualification.
Getting something from their match with Poland will be crucial, while Senegal can’t waste their strong efforts up to now with a tame performance against and experienced and star-studded Colombia.