Japan twice came from behind to earn a draw against Group H rivals Senegal – with both still hopeful of progressing into the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Having both won their opening fixtures, this meeting in Ekaterinburg was a chance for one nation to all-but seal their spot in the latter stages – but a 2-2 draw means they will have to wait for their final games to try and secure qualification from their group.
Sadio Mane and Moussa Wague had twice put Senegal ahead, only for Japan to respond on both occasions as Takashi Inui and substitute Keisuke Honda equalised.
Senegal started brightly and deservedly took the lead, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, with a little over 10 minutes on the clock.
A poor defensive header from Genki Haraguchi allowed Youssouf Sabaly to shoot – his tame effort only pushed against Mane by Eiji Kawashima, with the ball bouncing into the empty goal.
Japan looked for a speedy response but captain Makoto Hasebe saw his long-range drive blocked by team-mate Inui.
Ismaila Sarr had the next chance for Senegal as they won the ball back from Japan following a short corner and broke at pace, Sarr eventually forcing Kawashima into a routine save with a volley at goal.
Japan, as they did against the 10 men of Colombia for much of their opening win, struggled to create clear-cut chances as Khadim N’Diaye remained untested in the Senegal goal.
That changed nine minutes before the interval as Yuto Nagatomo broke forward from left-back, with Inui on hand to bend in an equaliser as he took the ball from the defender.
Kawashima made a smart save from M’Baye Niang as the half drew to a close, pushing away the forward’s shot after he had been played in by Badou Ndiaye.
Japan had the first decent chance of the second half as Yuya Osako, the match-winner against Colombia, could only send a tame header towards goal after being picked out free inside the area.
Niang fired a low drive at Kawashima as both nations pushed to take control of the contest, Osako missing another fine opportunity as he failed to make any contact on a low cross along the six-yard box.
Japan were starting to create the most telling chances and Inui came so close to adding his second of the afternoon, curling a first-time effort against the angle of the post with N’Diaye well-beaten.
Akira Nishino’s side paid the price for their second-half profligacy as Senegal restored their lead courtesy of Wague’s first international goal.
The 19-year-old full-back arrived at the back post with perfect timing to thrash home a low cross and put his side back on top.
Japan introduced Honda and Shinji Okazaki from the bench as they looked to equalise for a second time.
And it was the former who would provide the goal, the experienced international turning home Inui’s cross after N’Diaye had failed to deal with a routine ball into the penalty area.
Neither side could produce late drama to secure all three points but, with Japan facing Poland and Senegal to play Colombia, both know qualification to the latter stages remains in their own hands.
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