Home cooking - Russia on brink of last 16 at World Cup
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP):
Two wins, eight goals and almost certainly a place in the knockout stage for first time since the Soviet era. Only an unlikely set of results can deny the hosts a place in the last 16.
Russia are enjoying quite the party at their own World Cup and not even the highly anticipated return of Mohamed Salah could slow them down yesterday.
Confounding grim pre-tournament predictions, the host nation earned a second straight emphatic victory to start the group stage by beating Egypt 3-1 in Group A. Having already routed Saudi Arabia 5-0, Russia are likely to be celebrating a spot in the round of 16 by this evening and few could have seen that happening so soon.
The Russians started the World Cup as the lowest-ranked team at the tournament at No. 70, but they aren't playing like it.
Three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half did the damage against Egypt, with Ahmed Fathi poking the ball into his own net - the fifth own-goal of the tournament - to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Denis Cheryshev, with his third goal of the World Cup, and striker Artyom Dzyuba then scored in quick succession before Salah won and converted a consolation penalty in his first game back after 3 1/2 weeks out with a shoulder injury.
Salah needed to produce the type of performance he delivered nearly every week for Liverpool this season, when he scored 44 goals in 51 games, but it was clear from the start that he was staying out of anything too physical on his return from damaged ligaments in his left shoulder sustained in the Champions League final.
In yesterday's opening match, Japan did what no other Asian team had ever done at a World Cup - beat a South American squad on the biggest stage in football. The 2-1 victory over Colombia yesterday was another surprising result in an unpredictable tournament.
A costly mistake by Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez in the opening minutes led to a red card and a penalty, helping Japan take an early lead. Coming in the third minute, it was the second fastest red card in World Cup history and the first of this year's tournament.
Yuya Osako won a bouncing ball to begin a sequence that led to the red card and the penalty.
Sanchez blocked Shinji Kagawa's shot with his extended right arm and was ejected. Kagawa then converted from the spot.
Colombia scored late in the first half from a free-kick by Juan Quintero but Osako's gritty determination led to a 73rd-minute header from Keisuke Honda's corner kick that gave Japan three points in Group H.
In another mild upset Senegal clipped Poland 2-1. Mbaye Niang pounced on an errant backpass to give Senegal a 2-0 lead in the 60th minute after a Thiago Cionek own goal had gifted the Africans a 1-0 advantage in the 37th minute.
Grezegorz Krychowiak pulled back a goal in the 86th minute but Senegal help on for the win and opened the World Cup with a surprising victory just like they did in 2002. Senegal became the first African team to win at this year's World Cup after Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all lost. Senegal are tied for the group lead with Japan .Both have three points .
"We are not too euphoric because we do know there is going to be a difficult match against Japan," Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said.
Poland fans in red and white were about three-quarters of the crowd of 44,190 as their nation returned to the World Cup for the first time since 2006. Poland kept up their dismal streak of World Cup starts they have four losses and three draws since beating Argentina in 1974.