Japan squeeze into last 16 on disciplinary rule

Clyde Nash
July 1, 2018

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.

The remainder of the match was played out amid farcical scenes as Japan realised they would still go through by virtue of a better fair play record. But it took its first ever lead in World Cup play in the 33rd minute through an own-goal when Jose Luis Rodriguez's hard, left-footed shot deflected off of Tunisia's Yassine Meriah.

A first half of little drama concluded to a chorus of whistles from the crowd and little changed following the restart.

- Japan have qualified out of the World Cup group stage for the third time in their history, also doing so in 2002 and 2010.

Meanwhile Poland winger, Kamil Grosiki admits their time in Russian Federation has been a struggle, but they must try and recover some pride in their final game after losing 2-1 to Senegal, before being totally outplayed by the Colombians.

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Kawashima's place had been under threat following his howler for Senegal's first goal in the 2-2 draw and he repaid Nishino's faith with a wondrous stop.

Japan excluded some of its most creative players, including midfielder Takashi Inui and Makoto Hasebe, from the starting line-up but coach Akira Nishino put that down to fatigue rather than any attempt to play for a draw.

All thoughts of pushing for an equaliser were banished, and the booing from the Volgograd terraces became increasingly vociferous as Japan hogged the ball at the back in a match that descended into a lifeless training drill.

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 big right hand at full stretch.

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.

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"The Japanese team has been prepared very well from the mentality point of view", Nawalka said. The last time they scored against European opponents was in a 3-1 win over Denmark in 2010.

This was not the only game in the final round of the groups to lack any sense of intensity. "It was everything we don't want to see in the World Cup".

"As a group we have to defend well to counter the threat he poses". Poland really didn't chase the ball down either as they had nothing to play for and were content with the scoreline.

Although Belgium gets what appears to be an easier match against Japan in the round of 16, it could get trickier with a victory in Rostov-on-Don on Monday.

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