Russia marches on, Senegal dances, Japan radiates

Maswood Alam Khan | Published: June 20, 2018 21:06:40 | Updated: June 22, 2018 21:37:31


Russian players rejoice after scoring against Egypt

All our eyes watched a moving spectrum of football in the last three tournaments of this World Cup. Almost confirmed is Russia's proud march towards the knockout stage after the host country crushed Egypt with a dramatic 3-1 triumph, bagging six points from two games.

It is always good for a tournament when the host does well. Russia scored a total of 8 goals in their first 2 games with their quality players and a good number of attacking footballers.

The whole Saint Petersburg Stadium was lit up and the sky above was electrified with cheers as Russia scored one goal after another in quick succession against Egypt in the space of only 15 minutes early in the second half. Russians and their supporters around the world celebrated effusively with more to look forward to in the days ahead.

Russia had a lead thanks to a monumental fluke! Egypt's Fathi while trying to defend his side pushed the ball back into his own goal, the first catastrophe for Egypt. But Russians didn't care; they and their fans celebrated deliriously!

Egypt's football legend Mohamed Salah, however , salvaged some pride by scoring their only goal from a penalty, awarded after a video review.

Egyptian fans inside the stadium, almost a third of the crowd, and TV-watching fans the world over found their pharaonic World Cup dream evaporate into smoke after their defeat.

Last Tuesday, in the second match of the evening, Senegal, the Lions of Teranga, danced once again after defeating the powerful Poland with a 2-1 victory. The last time the Senegalese danced was when they celebrated their improbable run into the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup and their unbelievable 1-0 victory in their first-ever match against France, the country that had colonized them until 1959.

In their opening match in this World Cup, the Lions of Teranga added another chapter to their fabled football story.

Senegal this time took full advantage of their opponents' errors to beat Poland 2-1. A bit luckily, they took the lead in the first-half, when their midfielder Idrissa Gueye deflected the ball off the Polish defender Thiago Cionek's shin and into the net. Poland, ranked eighth in the world, was stunned.But, that was not the end of the drama.

At the fag end of the match, due to some misunderstanding among the Polish players, Poland's defender Bednarek and their goalkeeper had not really expected a back-pass from their midfielder Krychowiak when Senegalese forward Niang had been standing inconspicuously nearby. Niang sprinted toward the ball before both the Polish defender and the onrushing goalkeeper found the green space in front him heavenly free and pushed the ball over the goal line.

Own-goals happen, but Krychowiak's back-pass was inexcusable. Poland, however, could manage a goal at the end of the match, but, after the whistle blew, Senegalese players gathered together and danced just as they did against France sixteen years ago, finally giving Africa something to cheer about at the World Cup as the other group favourites failed to fire.

In the first match of the evening, Colombia was speculated to head into the contest as favourites to beat Japan and top Group H. But their mission suffered a massive blow less than 180 seconds into the game.

Even to Asians like us who are desperate to see an Asian team brighten up in the World Cup, it was a cruel decision of the Yugoslav referee DamirSkomina to award Colombia a 'Death followed by Flogging": A Red Card and Penalty. It was sheer madness to give a penalty at the third minute of the game.

In the first place, it was a doubtful handball. Even if it was a handball that was biologically reflexive, not intentional. You must spread your hands if you must jump. Colombia's Carlos Sanchev stuck out his arm almost instinctively rather than with any kind of pre-meditation. The referee perhaps applied the letter of the law correctly but what a ridiculous law! A better rule could be to give the team the goal but not the red card. It was simply too harsh a rule and destroyed the game.

Japan, however, burst forward and Yuya Osaka had a chance to score early on from a one-on-one. Juan Quintero of Colombia equalised from a free-kick in the 39th minute with a brilliant piece of improvisation.

Japan got the first World Cup win in Europe, and their first against South American opposition.

Japan now radiates with pride as they pin a colourful feather in their cap as the first Asian country to make a breakthrough in this World Cup after defeating Colombia by 2-1.

maswood@hotmail.com

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