Japan squeeze into last 16 on disciplinary rule

Jun 29, 2018, 18:23
Japan squeeze into last 16 on disciplinary rule

Kawashima's spot in the starting lineup had been in doubt after coach Akira Nishino said he would assess the goalkeeper position after the 2-2 draw.

The Japanese knew that with Senegal losing by the same margin to Colombia they would go through to the round of 16 ahead of the Africans.

Nishino told a press conference: 'It was a very tough decision but I decided I wanted to keep the status quo and make sure a change was not going to take place on our pitch.

Nice guys don't necessarily finish last at the World Cup. I'm not too happy about this but I forced my players to do what I said.

With two fewer yellow cards, Japan's tally was better than Senegal, and though Nishino acknowledged his regrets in his postmatch news conference about the manner of Japan's progression, he did not apologise for the game's lifeless conclusion. And we went through.

When Jan Bednarek scored his first global goal in the 60th minute for already eliminated Poland, the score between Colombia and Senegal stood at 0-0 meaning Japan were going out.

Both Japan and Senegal finished the group phase with four points, had the same goal difference and the same amount of goals scored.

Poland are out of the tournament after two defeats, and they will have nothing more to play for other than pride.

Poland, which had already been eliminated, got its goal from defender Jan Bednarek in the 59th minute.

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 unsafe freekick with a perfectly-cushioned volley into the back of the net.

In their only previous meeting with an Asian team in the World Cup, Poland lost 2-0 against South Korea in 2002.

VOLGOGRAD-Japan is expected to stick with goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima when it faces Poland and top striker Robert Lewandowski in a World Cup group match finale.

Japan will go on to face the victor of the Belgium v England match in the Round of 16. The first decent chance of the half came from an unlikely source, as Japanese centre-back Tomoaki Makino attempted a spectacular bicycle kick which flew just wide. His cleverly directed header looked destined for the bottom corner until Kawashima made up huge amounts of ground to claw it to safety with a right hand at full stretch.

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