Five days after a dramatic 2-1 victory over Germany in their opening Group E match at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Japan's hopes of advancing to the knockout round took a huge hit with a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on Sunday, November 27.
Defender Keysher Fuller's goal in the 81st minute provided the margin of victory for Costa Rica at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan. Fuller took a pass on the edge of the box and took advantage of poor defending by Japan to deftly send a left-footed shot just over the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda to give the Ticos the lead.
The result was a reprieve for Costa Rica, ranked 31st in the world, following a 7-0 drubbing to Spain in their opener.
Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu made five changes to the starting lineup he used against Germany, but the move backfired.
"I have no regrets, to be honest," Moriyasu was quoted as saying by Reuters. "The result was a shame but doesn’t mean that what we’ve done was wrong. I decided the tactics. The result didn’t work out but we tried."
Costa Rica Plays Strong Defense
Japan, ranked 24th, had a late chance to equalize when Daichi Kamada's shot from directly in front of the goal was stopped by Costa Rica 'keeper Keylor Navas with his foot in the 88th minute.
Japan outshot Costa Rica 14-4 in the match, but could not find the formula to get the ball in the net as the Ticos defended deep and well. Both sides drew three yellow cards in the match, with Japan having 22 fouls to Costa Rica's nine.
"Much remains to be done," Costa Rica manager Luis Fernando Suarez commented on Costa Rican television after the triumph. "The important thing was to win. We have to wait for the results, let's see what happens."
For Japan, a Critical Match Against Spain
As if the victory over Germany was not improbable enough, Japan's hopes now rest on its match with powerhouse Spain on Thursday night, December 1 (4 AM JST kickoff on Friday). The Germans and Spanish will play each other late Sunday local time (4AM JST on Monday).
The contest with Costa Rica was a listless one from the start, with a goalless draw appearing a likelihood for much of the match. The play was physical in the opening minutes, with Japan committing several fouls.
Ritsu Doan, who scored against Germany, sent a centering pass across the goalmouth in the 13th minute that looked promising, but no teammate was there to latch onto it.
Japan played tight defense throughout the match, but was unable to capitalize on its superior speed and passing against the bigger Costa Ricans. Neither side mounted any type of a real threat in the first 45 minutes where Costa Rica dominated possession.
Japan committed 10 fouls in the first half compared with Costa Rica's five.
“We had to get at least a draw,” Japan captain Maya Yoshida was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. “We couldn’t break down their defense and our playing tempo became really flat.”
Second-Half Substitutions for Japan
Moriyasu brought on Takuma Asano and Hiroki Ito at the start of the second half in an attempt to infuse some energy for Japan.
Hidemasa Morita came up with the first real chance of the match in the opening minute of the second half when he unleashed a left-footed laser from the edge of the box that was parried by Navas.
Francisco Calvo drew a yellow card for grabbing Junya Ito in the 69th minute that gave Japan a free kick on the edge of the box, but the shot was blocked by the wall.
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Author: Jack Gallagher