In a matchup of two teams that struggled to find their best form in Matchday 1, Japan rallied to tie Colombia 2-2 in Group B action.
Japan had the first chance of the match in the 10th minute when defender Sei Muroya whistled a cross into the box that got chested down to the feet of forward Shinya Yajima. Yajima then drove a low, hard shot on frame that was stopped by Colombian goalie Cristian Bonilla to keep the score at 0-0.
Colombia would come close to breaking the deadlock in the 18th minute when forward Miguel Borja spun free of his defender and fired a missile from just outside the penalty area that Japan goalie Kosuke Nakamura had to parry away.
Japan looked like the more likely team to score for most of the first half. With more quality possession and better movements off the ball than Colombia, the Asian side seemed it could breakthrough at any moment. Colombia, on the other hand, didn’t generate any sustained spells of meaningful possession and only looked semi-dangerous on the few chances that it had to counter-attack Japan.
After a first half that only saw a couple of legitimate scoring opportunities, the score was 0-0.
Japan didn't waste time getting the action started in the second half. In the first minute, Takume Asano intercepted a poor Colombian pass in the midfield, surged forward a couple of yards towards the penalty area, and blasted a rocket with his left foot that was tipped onto the crossbar by Bonilla. No more than a minute later, Asano had yet another chance as he broke free on the left side of the penalty area and laced a shot that, once again, Bonilla had to handle.
However, completely against the run of play, Colombia would strike first in the 59th minute. After a neat give-and-go with substitute midfielder Arley Rodriguez at the top of the penalty area, Teofilo Gutierrez first-timed a shot that took a deflection and went past Nakamura into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Colombia would find its second goal of the game off a gift from Japan defender Hiroki Fujiharu in the 65th minute. After Nakamura made an intial save on a left-footed Arley Rodriguez attempt on goal from the left side of the penalty area, Fujiharu got caught in between trying to clear the rebound and letting the ball run past his body. He chose neither and awkwardly redirect the ball back onto his own goal. Even though another Japanese defender made an attempt to clear it, it had crossed the line. Opportunistic Colombia went up 2-0.
Japan would pull a goal back immediately in the 67th minute after after some quick passing on the edge of the Colombian penalty area. Substitute midfielder Takumi Minamino slipped in Takume Asano who quickly turned his body and cracked a shot passed Bonilla into the roof of the net.
Getting that goal seemed to have put life back into Japan as they turned the heat back up on Colombia, creating numerous chances and attacking with real intent and purpose. The feisty and energetic side would find the equalizer in the 74th minute on a brilliant Shoya Nakajima strike from long-range that curled over Bonilla, hit off the crossbar, and bounced down over the line.
For the remainder of the match, Japan would continue to have the majority of possession and the best chance at finding a third goal. But Colombia held on and the wildly entertaining Group B clash finished 2-2.
With Nigeria beating Sweden 1-0 earlier this evening, the Super Eagles are atop Group B with six points and a +2 goal differential. Colombia is in second place with two points and a zero goal differential, while Sweden and Japan both have one point and -1 goal differential.
Japan finishes its group stage slate on Wednesday, August 10th, at 6pm in Salvador vs. Sweden. Colombia takes on Nigeria in its third match of the Olympics on the same day and at the same time in Sao Paulo.