Japan sneak into World Cup last 16 thanks to fair play record

Yuya Osako Japan 2018 World Cup

When news filtered through to Japan manager Akira Nishino that Colombia had scored against Senegal, putting his team, as a result, in pole position to qualify from second place in Group H, he chose to make a controversial decision, a decision that did not go down too well with the fans at the stadium and watching around the world.

With Senegal and Japan tied behind Colombia in the standings - level on points, goal difference and goals scored - the four-time Asian champions' smaller number of yellow cards would be the decisive tie-breaker.

While the Samurai Blue lost, the tiebreaker between them and Senegal went down to fair play points.

Neither side performed particularly well in a game of few real chances, but it was Poland who took home the spoils to end their disappointing World Cup campaign with their first victory, preserving their record of winning at least one group match in every World Cup they have participated in since 1938. Rafal Kurzawa lofted a great free-kick into the box, which was turned home by the outstretched foot of Bednarek which piled the pressure on Japan.

- Japan have qualified out of the World Cup group stage for the third time in their history, also doing so in 2002 and 2010. The Japanese keeper did well to get across his line and claw the ball away.

With Poland leading and Colombia drawing, Japan would be heading out of this summer's competition unless they can find a goal in the final 30 minutes.

Nishino made six changes to the starting lineup ahead of the match, saying some of his players were tired.

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Robert Lewandowski then had a chance to put Poland ahead 2-0 - a result that would have allowed Senegal to advance - in the 74th minute after a swift counterattack but his effort flew over the bar.

Russian Federation is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14.

We have invested a lot to be here in Russian Federation during this World Cup and we had much greater expectations of ourselves. 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.

Japan captain Makoto Hasebe said, "Japan are not the kind of team that can aim for a point and go and carry [a negative] plan out".

"As a group we have to defend well to counter the threat he poses".

Colombia know a win in Samara will see them progress to the last 16.

On this showing, neither England nor Belgium - Japan's potential last-16 opponents - will fear playing Nishino's men, who will be grateful simply to make the knockout stages and may well be unrecognisable after this risky experiment. Belgium made nine changes and still won.

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