Poland dented Japan's World Cup dreams

May JohnsonJul 01, 2018

Japan advanced to the knockout round at the World Cup on a tiebreaker, fewer yellow cards than Senegal.

Poland have been one of the biggest disappointments of this World Cup, two years after reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 where they went out on penalties to eventual champions Portugal and after finishing top of their qualifying group for the World Cup in Russian Federation.

Following the loss, thanks to Jan Bednarek's 59th-minute strike, Japan have four points - the same as third-placed Senegal but the Asian powerhouse are ranked second in the group on the basis of fair play (number of yellow and red cards collected).

On a burning afternoon that saw several twists in the plot, Japan somehow set up a meeting with either Belgium or England by virtue of a goal scored 640km away in Samara and because they received two yellow cards fewer than Senegal. He beat his marker at the far post and volleyed in a swerving free kick from Rafal Kurzawa.

Poland, already out of the tournament, and with the heat getting to them towards the end of the match, didn't really make much of an effort to pressure Japan, either. Scampering across his goal before diving, Kawashima clawed the ball to safety just before it had crossed the line.

Having opened his Russian Federation 2018 account with the second of Brazil's two late goals in Friday's 2-0 win over Costa Rica, Neymar was again impressive.After the tearful emotion of Saint Petersburg, Neymar cut a more joyful figure after this win, blowing kisses to the crowd as the five-time champions celebrated.

Colombia's Yerry Mina came to Nishino's rescue, though, as his goal defeated Senegal and ensured Japan progressed in second place due to their superior disciplinary record. Japan has not performed that well at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, as goal-keeper Eiji Kawashima has made costly errors in consecutive matches.

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"They are both world-class teams", said Nishino. This kind of football does exist and it's the first time I have felt this way.

Poland have finished bottom of the group in a World Cup for the first time since 2002.

"As a group we have to defend well to counter the threat he poses". It was a freakish game where neither side looked deserving of a win, but it was Poland who would go home with a win while Samurai Blue barely get by. Neither team needed to win and there was good reason for neither to even want to win.

They have kept a clean sheet at the World Cup for the first time since winning 1-0 against Portugal in 1986.

Moments later, Muto won possesion again outside the box and his fierce shot was parried out of harm's way by goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, one of five changes in Poland's starting line-up.

Japan faces Group G victor Belgium on Monday in Rostov-on-Don.

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