Midfielder Keisuke Honda came off the bench to salvage a 2-2 draw for Japan against Senegal, as both teams were locked at the top of Group H following an entertaining encounter on Sunday.
Veteran Honda, 32, who became the first Japanese player to score in three different World Cups, replaced Shinji Kagawa in the second half with his team down 2-1 and fired the equalizer in 12 minutes from time after an error by Senegal goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye.
Senegal thought they had claimed all three points as Moussa Wague drilled the ball into the top of the net in the 71st minute to make it 2-1, after Sadio Mane’s fortuitous first-half opener was canceled out by Takashi Inui’s curling shot. But Honda ensured things ended level and deservedly so.
The result leaves both teams, who beat Colombia and Poland respectively in their opening matches, on four points from two games and within reach of a spot in the last 16.
“We didn’t play a great game but we didn’t lose… I have confidence. Our team has the quality to face Colombia,” he added, looking forward to Thursday’s meeting with the South Americans in Samara. Japan play Poland in Volgograd.
“We’re a bit disappointed… there was a way to win this match,” added Mane, who failed to exert his influence despite scoring. “We started well, we created a lot of opportunities, we were quite dangerous… we now have a decisive match to qualify next week.”