Bayern Munich superstar James Rodriguez is returning hero for Colombia at World Cup 2018

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The breakout star of World Cup 2014, James Rodriguez, got his first start of the 2018 edition and inspired Colombia’s rise to a vital 3-0 win against Poland.

Rodriguez, 26, produced a delightful first-time cross for Yerry Mina’s headed opener and an incisive pass for his rampant nation’s third through Juan Cuadrado.

Here, we analyse the performance of the Colombia star.

STATISTICS 

Goals – 0

Assists – 2

Shots – 2

Shots on target – 0

Touches – 86

Passes – 67

Key passes – 3

Dribbles – 3

Dispossessed – 2

30-SECOND REPORT

Rodriguez simply gets Colombia ticking.

His inability to be present from the off in last week’s opening Group H-reversal to Japan because of injury was almost as damaging as Carlos Sanchez’s third-minute red card.

The tee-ups for Mina and Cuadrado this time were the icing on the cake.

GOT RIGHT

MAKING HIS CLASS COUNT – You cannot doubt the pedigree of this supreme Real Madrid-owned, Bayern Munich playmaker.

The highlight came when he picked up the ball on the left and one pass dissected the retreating Poland defence for Cuadrado’s stunner. This influence will only grow in the matches to come.

EXERCISE IN EFFICIENCY – You would not have known that doubts surrounded Rodriguez’s participation.

The ex-Porto and Monaco star got straight up to speed against the sorry Poles. For Colombia, Rodriguez had the most touches and passes, plus joint most key passes.

His influence is without compare – and so is his efficiency.

KEY MOMENTS

25th min CHANCE: A sweeping pass played in Radamel Falcao on the break, but the striker’s back-heeled pass couldn’t find Cuadrado.

40th min ASSIST: What a delight to behold. Excellent creative partner Juan Fernando Quintero played Rodriguez into space from a corner, an inviting centre then being powered home by Mina.

55th min CHANCE: Colombia’s threat on the counter continued. This time, Rodriguez found Quintero and his shot was blocked.

75th min ASSIST: One of the tournament’s most-enjoyable goals. Colombia broke at lightning pace and Rodriguez was found on the left touchline. He looked up and instantly played winger Cuadrado into the clear, to then apply a picture-book finish with the outside of his boot.

VERDICT

Rodriguez burst into life from the off four years ago, rocketing in six goals during five matches to grab the Golden Boot.

A calf problem forced him to come on as a substitute in last week’s 2-1 defeat to Japan. This time, he rubberstamped his enduring class with two perfect assists.

RATING: 8/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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Keisuke Honda shows why Vahid Halilhodzic had to go in our Japan 2-2 Senegal talking points

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Keisuke Honda ended his lengthy international goal drought for Japan to earn a 2-2 draw with Senegal and keep the race for progression at World Cup 2018 wide open in Group H.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane took advantage of an awful fumble from Samurai Blue goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to deflect in an 11th-minute opener. New Real Betis winger Takashi Inui levelled things up in style on 34 minutes when he curled a shot into the bottom corner.

Japan dominated chances after the interval and Inui rocked the crossbar, but fell behind when 19-year-old Eupen full-back Moussa Wague provided an emphatic finish to end a fine move. Samurai Blue were then able to fight back for a second time when Pachuca forward Honda tapped in at the back post after a scramble.

The result at Ekaterinburg Arena left both teams on four points at the midway point in the fight to make the round of 16.

HONDA IS REVVING UP

A giant figure in Japanese football came up with a huge equalising goal.

Honda’s composed finish earned a fully merited share of the points and kept Samurai Blue well in the mix.

It also earned the 32-year-old former CSKA Moscow and AC Milan attacker a piece of history as the first Japan international to register in three World Cups.

This ended a personal scoreless spell which stretched back to September 2016’s 2-1 home defeat to the UAE when the final round of AFC qualifying began in inauspicious circumstance. Vitally, it followed an assist off the bench for Yuya Osako’s winner against Colombia.

Honda’s fallow period made him a central character in sacked head coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s failed purge of the old guard. April’s ruthlessness from the Japan Football Association appears to have been vindicated.

FLAWED BUT FULL OF PROMISE

The fans in Ekaterinburg were not starved of entertainment.

Plenty of end-to-end action saw the sides share 22 attempts, of which the Lions of Teranga were denied the lion’s share by Japan’s 15.

Each combatant also boasted one goal of requisite class and one of great fortune.

These foibles make it a fool’s errand to predict who will ultimately progress on Thursday when Group H reaches its conclusion.

ANOTHER KAWASHIMA CALAMITY

Japan cannot say they weren’t warned.

Fresh from letting Juan Fernando Quintero’s low free-kick slither in at his near post for Colombia, Kawashima made another wrick.

Last week’s mistake ultimately could not stop Samurai Blue gaining a historic first-ever victory for an Asian nation against South American opposition at the World Cup.

This time, however, it was a costly one.

Frustration among their supporters comes from the presence on the sidelines of emerging Kashiwa Reysol shot stopper Kosuke Nakamura.

On current ability, the 2017 J. League Best XI member appears the safer choice.

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John Stones scores but looks shaky and Harry Kane is spot on in our England ratings from Panama thrashing

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Main man: Harry Kane

England stormed into World Cup 2018’s knockouts with a match to spare courtesy of a 6-1 thrashing of debutants Panama that included a hat-trick for new tournament top scorer Harry Kane.

The Three Lions roared into a 5-0 half-time advantage at Nizhny Novogorod thanks to John Stones’ double from set-pieces, Jesse Lingard’s superb curled effort and Kane’s cool brace from the penalty spot.

The latter-mentioned skipper luckily completed his first brace for England when he deflected in Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot. Consolation for Panama was found when substitute Felipe Baloy stretched to knock in his nation’s opening World Cup goal.

England usurped their final Group G opponents Belgium, who they play on Thursday, at the top via goal difference. Panama are eliminated after two heavy defeats.

Here are our player ratings:

ENGLAND (3-1-4-2)

Jordan Pickford – 6: Had the best seat in the house as the Three Lions tore Panama to bits. Remained alert to bravely block rampaging right-back Michael Murillo.

Kyle Walker – 6: There was never any risk of another penalty clanger from the makeshift centre-back. Made one brilliant sliding block near the start to safeguard the clean sheet.

John Stones – 7: Hadn’t scored twice in a season before August 2016’s move to Manchester City, never mind two in one game. Only worry was his sloppy giveaways of the ball.

Harry Maguire – 7: The towering Leicester City defender caused utter chaos in the Panama penalty box for every set-piece. Defending didn’t come under microscope.

Jordan Henderson – 7: Is exerting a growing influence at international level after previously underwhelming. His set-piece led to Stones’ scrambled second.

Kieran Trippier – 8: The Tottenham Hotspur right-back continues to reward head coach Gareth Southgate’s faith. England’s first three goals at the tournament came from his corners.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 5: It doesn’t look like the injured Dele Alli needs to worry about his starting spot. Only had one shot and key pass, but this shot was fortuitously deflected in by Kane.

Jesse Lingard – 7: Made up for his profligate display against Tunisia with a breathtaking goal from the edge of the penalty box. His energy makes England’s attack come alive.

Ashley Young – 6: A nondescript display from the Manchester United wing-back. Left praise for Trippier. Swapped sides later on to facilitate substitute Danny Rose.

Raheem Sterling – 6: This was a neat display from the City attacker, but it lacked punch. Really should have buried header in build-up to club-mate Stones’ second.

Harry Kane – 8: England’s captain is now the top scorer at World Cup 2018 thank to this hat-trick. His two penalties were perfect, his third requiring a sizeable slice of fortune.

SUBS

Fabian Delph – 6: Got minutes into his legs thanks to near 30-minute cameo. Did nothing of note.

Jamie Vardy – 6: England were already counting down the clock when the Leicester strike came on. Had no shots.

Danny Rose – 6: Given final 20 minutes to make an impression. Was deepest defender for Panama’s consolation.

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