Cape Town — How will Senegal's physicality, power and height measure up to the speed and energy of the Blue Samurai in Russia's artistic city of Ekaterinberg. On a Sunday no less. The Teranga Lions fans' almost spiritual devotion may bode well for the West Africans.
The atmosphere in the stadium was electric with bands giving loud and enthusiastic support. Even the odd marimba could be heard. This was in stark contrast to the slow pace of the game on the pitch.
Group H features Japan, Columbia, Senegal and Poland and saw Japan beat Columbia 2-1 in an earlier game, and Senegal beat Poland by the same margin.
In the early minutes, Senegal was quick to take the game to Japan's half but failed to capitalise after being awarded the first corner kick of the match.
In the 11th minute Senegal's Sadio Mane was in just the right place to capitalise from a save by Japan's keeper Kawashima that went into the net off his knees. It ignited the game and upped the speed and energy on the pitch.
Another spirited counter attack by the Senegalese after a fumbled corner kick by Japan saw a shot at goal by the Lions that was neatly stopped by Japan's goalkeeper.
In the 33rd minute Takashi Inui of the Blue Samurai took revenge by executing a superb shot at goal that saw them draw level. The goal ignited Japan's attack and the tempo of the game shifted into top gear. In the 38th minute Niang's shot at goal was unsuccessful.
The second half saw Senegal looking to score off a corner in the first two minutes but it was not to be. Japan replied with a header by Asokha that was easily saved by Senegal's keeper.
Japan looked confident on the ball and continued to test Senegal's defence with quick attacks.
A foul on Mane in the 53rd minute saw a freekick awarded to the Lions of Teranga. Niang's shot at goal in the 54th minute was neatly fielded by the Japanese keeper.
In the 64th the scorer of the first goal, Inui, launched a rocket at the lions but unfortunately for the Sumurai hit the top of the uprights. Japan was dominating possession in the second half but a second goal proved elusive.
In the 70th minute 19-year-old Wague fired a beautiful effort to hit the back of the net and send the Lions' fans into an explosion of ecstasy.
But the Blues were not to be outdone. In the 77th minute Senegal's goalie left the box amd Japanese veteran Honda got the vital equaliser that saw him get his 37th international goal and also become the first Japanese player to score at three World Cups.
The final score was 2-2 with each team having one game left in the group round.