Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Japan advances on fair play points despite loss to Poland

Japan and Poland meet at the Volgograd Arena on Thursday Japan and Poland meet at the Volgograd Arena on Thursday
Rita Gibson | 29 June, 2018, 01:33

Japan's Eiji Kawashima reacts after a miss by Poland's Robert Lewandowski in the FIFA World Cup at Volgograd Arena, Volgograd, Russia on Thursday.

Japan coach Akira Nishino made six changes including bringing in attacking pair Shinji Okazaki and Yoshinori Muto for his World Cup debut.

At the half-way mark in the final round of games in Group H, Japan and Senegal remain poised to qualify for the round-of-16.

Colombia will face the runner-up of Group G, which will be either England or Belgium.

Barcelona's Yerry Mina's goal in the 74th minute was the difference as the South American finished top of the group. Fair play - which was only introduced as a tiebreaker at this year's World Cup - was then used to split the pair, with Japan's four yellow cards beating Senegal's six.

It's the first time since 1982 that no African team has advanced from the first round at the World Cup.

Win over England not priority, says Martinez
Again stressing England's woeful record at major tournaments in recent years, he added: 'We've not won a knockout game since 2006. Argentina topped Group A ahead of Italy and Bulgaria. "We have to keep building that belief and building those experiences".

After much speculation over previous days about his place in the team, Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima proved his worth in spectacular fashion with about 15 minutes left in the first half, just keeping out a free header from Kamil Grosicki.

Robert Lewandowski then skied the ball over from inside the area as Japan stood on the brink of elimination.

The tie was, however, turned on its head in the 59th minute when poor marking from the Japanese gave Bednarek plenty of time and space inside the area, where he meet Rafal Kurzawa's risky freekick with a perfectly-cushioned volley into the back of the net.

The game petered out in the dying minutes in farcical circumstances with both Japan and Poland so happy with the result that they were content to let the Japanese play keep-ball in their own half. Neither Japan nor Poland made an effort to win the match after hearing about Mina's goal over in Samara.

"The manner in which the team qualified was not the initial goal", said Nishino afterward.

The Japanese played out goalless draw at halftime and were looking like they were heading for the exit doors. "It was hard for the bench and the players on the pitch to deal with the situation under the circumstances".

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