Colombia and Poland were fancied to fight it out for top spot in most pre-tournament World Cup 2018 Group H predictions but Senegal and Japan set the early pace instead.
The Lions of Teranga beat the Eagles 2-1 and were promoted to 21/20 favourites to advance as pool winners following that result.
An early dismissal helped the Samurai Blue see off Los Cafeteros by the same scoreline and they were cut to 2/1 to finish at the summit.
Standings Group H
Carlos Sanchez was sent off after just three minutes for handling Shinji Kagawa’s shot in Japan’s win over Colombia.
The Borussia Dortmund playmaker slotted home the resulting penalty, but Juan Quintero’s clever free-kick levelled things before half-time.
However, having an extra man eventually told, with Yuya Osako’s 73rd-minute header securing all three points for the Samurai Blue at a time when they were the superior team.
Despite the victory proving Japan’s first at a World Cup in Europe, in six attempts, manager Akira Nishino warned they remain far from certain of progressing to the knockout stages.
“I said at half-time that if we can keep the ball moving, we can deprive the Colombia players of their stamina,” said the 63-year-old, according to FIFA.
“Our players were aggressive from the start and I think that worked very well for us.
“This is just one win and three points, though, so we will save our celebration.”
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman commented: “The pain we feel is because after a huge effort, we lost because we were worn down, we were tired.
“Even if I tried subbing on fresh players, it was very hard for us to recover possession.”
|Colombia vs Japan||1 - 2||Mordovia Arena|
|Poland vs Senegal||1 - 2||Spartak Stadium|
|Japan vs Senegal||Ekaterinburg Arena|
|Poland vs Colombia||Kazan Arena|
|Japan vs Poland||Volgograd Stadium|
|Senegal vs Colombia||Samara Arena|
Senegal’s first goal came when defender Thiago Cionek deflected a wayward Idrissa Gueye shot past Wojciech Szczesny after 37 minutes.
The second was the result of a mix-up involving Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jan Bednarek and the cursed Szczesny, which left M’Baye Niang with an open goal on the hour.
Krychowiak would get one back for Poland with a header in the 86th minute but it was not nearly enough on a bad day at the office for the European side.
Lions of Teranga boss Aliou Cisse said: “They had more of the ball but every time they made a mistake we hit them and forced them back.
“We are Senegal, so we are proud to play for our country, but I can see that the whole continent is supporting us, too. I got calls from all over Africa and we are proud of that.”
Poland coach Adam Nawalka added: “We had more of the ball but what counts is what ends up in the net.
“Our wingers didn’t do their jobs and the central midfielders weren’t very good either.
“We played better after the break but it wasn’t enough and we’re not very happy with two goals from our mistakes.”