Japan and Senegal provided an enthralling encounter on Sunday, which ultimately ended in a 2-2 result and left everything up for grabs in Group H as the teams enter the final fixtures of the group stage. Following 2-1 victories in their first matches, both sides are level in every regard entering their third match.
Keisuke Honda scored a 78th-minute equalizer after a goalkeeper gaffe to force the draw, after Sadio Mane and Takashi Inui exchanged first-half goals and Senegal teenager Moussa Wague had put the Lions of Teranga ahead in the 71st.
The match started with the African nation on the front foot as an overloaded midfield attacked the final third in the first few minutes while Japan defended in numbers. Before five minutes Senegal had already forced two corners.
The threat kept coming and in the 12th minute, Sadio Mane made it 1-0 thanks to a poor clearance in the box from its opponent.
The goal prompted Japan to keep pressing and search for the equalizer, but Aliou Cissé's side stood firm, excellently holding its shape at the back. Meanwhile on the counter, Mane kept threatening on the left hand side by holding out and searching for crosses in the box. Everytime Senegal came forward, it looked dangerous.
But Japan was not giving up and finally, as we approached the end of the half, the Asian squad was rewarded thanks to a fantastic deep ball, which resulted with Yuto Nagatomo's assist and a goal from Eibar's Inui.
The half ended evenly as in the first 45 minutes, both sides showed their strengths and vulnerabilites, leaving for great chances at both ends. The second half allowed Akira Nishino's side to create more with the team's possession game and in the 49th minute, some great passing allowed for a header in the box but ultimately wasn't powerful enough to threaten the Senegal stopper. But one thing was clear, Japan was gaining confidence as the game developed.
A fantastic ball into the box was missed by Yuya Osako and Senegal escaped once again while Japan rued another golden opportunity to take the lead. Again, another effort from Inui inside the box hit the crossbar, and once again, Senegal exhaled.
And Japan's miss was Senegal's fortune as in the 71st minute, Wague, 19 capitalized from a great ball in from the left hand side and made it 2-1.
But it wasn't over as a horrible mistake from Khadim Ndiaye inside the box, racing off his line for a cross and missing it, provided a chance for Japan to equalize as Honda made it 2-2 for another twist in this enthralling match.
Japan will face Poland, while Senegal will take on Colombia in what should be a pair of sensational group finales on Thursday.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Metz), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol)
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Wataru Endo (Urawa Reds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)
Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Genki Haraguchi (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz)
Manager: Akira Nishino
Goalkeepers: Abdoulaye Diallo (Stade Rennes), Alfred Gomis (SPAL), Khadim Ndiaye (Horoya)
Defenders: Lamine Gassama (Alanyaspor), Saliou Ciss (Valenciennes), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Kara Mbodii (Anderlecht), Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux), Salif Sane (Hannover 98), Moussa Wague (Eupen)
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Alfred Ndiaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City), Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham City), Ismaila Sarr (Stade Rennes)
Forwards: Keita Balde (Monaco), Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City), Moussa Konate (Amiens), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mbaye Niang (Torino), Diafra Sakho (Stade Rennes), Moussa Sow (Bursaspor)
Manager: Aliou Cissé