Ronaldo's revelry, Messi's miss and Sanchez's shocker - Russia 2018, World Cup of the penalty

In just the 15th game, Shinji Kagawa was the ninth player to take a penalty at Russia 2018, following a definite trend at this World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Carlos Sanchez   -  Getty Images

There was drama and set-piece goals aplenty in Colombia v Japan - following the pattern set by Russia 2018 so far.

The tournament has delivered no shortage of storylines in its early stages - the hosts getting off to a flier, Portugal's classic with Spain, and Mexico stunning defending champions Germany to name but a few.

Tuesday's Group H meeting also threw up another abundance of intrigue, the Blue Samurai springing something of a surprise with a 2-1 victory in Saransk.

And the fixture, although perhaps not at the top of most neutrals' must-see list, served up more of the set-piece drama that has become an underlying theme across the first six days in Russia.

The game got off to a sensational start, Carlos Sanchez instinctively handling Shinji Kagawa's goal-bound effort to earn himself a straight red card in just the third minute - the second-fastest dismissal in World Cup history.

Kagawa tucked away the penalty - already the ninth taken in just 15 games at these finals. There were only 13 spot-kicks awarded in the entirety in Brazil four years ago.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder succeeded where Lionel Messi had failed, after the Argentina talisman was denied by Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson during Saturday's 1-1 draw.

Later that day, Christian Cueva blazed over the bar from 12 yards as Peru fell to a 1-0 loss against Denmark. At least he could console himself by being among exulted company, forming a two-member club as the only men to miss from the spot so far.

By contrast, Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake with his penalty in that epic 3-3 draw with Spain, and, just for good measure, the Real Madrid superstar tonked home an 88th-minute free-kick to rescue a point for his side.

Which brings us nicely to Colombia and their equaliser against Japan as Juan Quintero - selected in place of the unfit James Rodriguez - whipped a 20-yard effort under the wall and just inside the near post.

Colombia's 2014 campaign was inspired by the Golden Boot winning James, but perhaps this is Quintero's turn to shine having failed to live up to his earlier promise, seeing his former Porto team-mate elevate himself to the global stage with Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Quintero's clever effort was the fourth direct free-kick to be scored at these finals, after stunners from Aleksandr Golovin, Ronaldo and Aleksandar Kolarov.

That tally is already one more than at Brazil 2014, although it ultimately counted for little - David Ospina's hesitancy and Yuya Osako's header saw to that.

But here's hoping Russia 2018 - seemingly the World Cup where penalties and free-kicks will play a pivotal role - continues to deliver as a spectacle of devilish dead-ball striking.

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