Japan squeeze into last 16 on disciplinary rule

Virginia Santiago
July 1, 2018

Japan lost 0-1 to Poland in their final Group H contest here on Thursday but still managed to go through to the FIFA World Cup pre-quarterfinals.

The Bayern Munich man did have his best chance to score against Japan - but scooped a shot over from 10 yards out.

Despite losing 1-0 to Poland, the Japanese were able to advance a round of 16 match against Belgium because they received fewer yellow cards than Senegal, which lost to Colombia by the same score at the same time.

Senegal's six yellow cards to Japan's four ultimately cost the African side, who exit Russian Federation in disappointing circumstances.

Colombia and Japan go on to face opponents from Group G - either England or Belgium, who play later Thursday.

"It was just the situation that forced me to make the risky call and we decided not to go on the offence and rely on the other match".

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"It was an ultimate decision for me to make". It was not intentional.

The Asian side were especially vulnerable as Nishino had excluded some of the squad's most creative players, including midfielder Takashi Inui and Makoto Hasebe, from the starting line-up.

"My players were very loyal in listening to me and following my decision".

Nishino, who took over in April after former coach Vahid Halilhodzic was sacked, stressed he wanted his squad to play a freer, more attacking style in the last 16 against England or Belgium.

"They are both world-class teams", he said.

The already-eliminated Poles had the best chance when Bartosz Bereszynski brought a stretching save out of Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima in the 32nd minute.

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All Japan's good work was undone in the 59th minute when Rafal Kurzawa lofted a free-kick into the Japan box and with the defenders standing off him, Bednarek pounced to give Poland the lead.

But they comprehensively failed to turn up at the tournament, losing 2-1 to Senegal and 3-0 to Colombia.

Bednarek played a blind pass across his penalty area straight to Muto who shifted it to Yuto Nagatomo motoring down the left flank.His whipped cross was met by a diving Okazaki header which flashed wide. He has six goals and four assists in eight World Cup appearances.

The game finished in farcical circumstances with both Japan and Poland happy with the result and content to play keep-ball.

Their main man, striker Robert Lewandowski, powered in 16 goals during the qualifiers - but failed to score a single one in Russian Federation, ending his miserable tournament with another spurned chance against Japan.

Despite signing off with a win, it was ultimately a frustrating first World Cup appearance for the likes of the highly rated Piotr Zielinski, but even more so Robert Lewandowski, who will be 30 in August and, despite his recent protestations to the contrary, is by no means guaranteed to be involved should Poland return to this stage in Qatar in 2022.

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