MANAUS, BRAZIL – Shoya Nakajima spared Hiroki Fujiharu’s blushes with a 74th-minute equalizer as Japan came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Colombia on Sunday and keep alive its hopes of progressing to the men’s soccer quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics.
Colombia took the lead through captain Teofilo Gutierrez and the South Americans looked to be in control when Fujiharu gifted them a freak own goal in the 65th minute.
Arsenal striker Takuma Asano reduced the deficit moments later, and Nakajima equalized with an outstanding strike to earn Japan its first point of the tournament in Group B.
“All credit to the way the players pushed forward after scoring. They gave it everything they had right to the end,” said Japan coach Makoto Teguramori.
“We have to win (the next game) and we will show that we are capable of doing just that.”
Nakjima was left with mixed feelings after his big goal.
“I knew I just had to hit it,” Nakajima said. “I felt it was a game we could have won, so I am disappointed about that.
“For us to qualify we will be depending on results of other games. We just have to go all out for it (against Sweden).”
Nigeria, which beat Japan 5-4 in a wild match on Thursday, advanced to the last eight with a 1-0 win over Sweden.
Sadiq Umar headed Nigeria in front with his second goal of the tournament with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Nigeria leads the group with six points. Colombia, which drew 2-2 with Sweden on Thursday, has two and Japan and Sweden have one apiece.
Japan faces Sweden and Nigeria takes on the Colombians in the final round of group phase on Aug. 10.
In the day’s second Group B match at Amazonia Arena, Gutierrez took a return pass from substitute Arley Rodriguez from the edge of the box and beat Nakamura with a shot that took a deflection off Naomichi Ueda on its way into the back of the net just before the hour mark.
The Colombians then took the lead thanks to a comical own goal that is sure to haunt Gamba Osaka defender Fujiharu, one of three overage players selected to the side.
Borja tried his luck with a shot Nakamura saved with his foot, but the rebound fell to Fujiharu who appeared to lose his balance before clipping the ball over his own line.
Japan hit straight back as Asano drilled home after racing onto a cute pass from Takumi Minamino, and Nakajima made it 2-2 with a peach of a long-range strike that flew in after clipping the underside of the crossbar.
In Group C, Serge Gnabry’s second goal of the game deep in stoppage time salvaged a point for Germany in a 3-3 draw with South Korea, while Erick Gutierrez scored four of Mexico’s goals in a 5-1 rout of Fiji.
In Group D, goals from Tobias Figueiredo and Paciencia saw Portugal come from behind to post their second win with a 2-1 defeat of Honduras, while Argentina ran out 2-1 winners over Algeria thanks to Jonathan Calleri’s 70th minute effort.
In Group A, Robert Skov’s goal midway through the second half gave Denmark a 1-0 win over South Africa. Host Brazil failed to rebound from its disappointing 0-0 draw against 10-man South Africa, as it was held to another goal-less stalemate, this time by Iraq.