Japan joins Colombia to advance as runners up in Group H after losing 1-0 to Poland in Volgograd on Thursday. Poland was already eliminated before today and Senegal are heading out on Fair Play points after being tied with Japan. Poland go home from Russia with a victory. For the Poles, who even before the start of today’s match knew they were on their way home, it was their first win in the competition.
Japan has squeaked into the knockout stage at the World cup by the narrowest of margins after losing to Poland in its last group match.
Jan Bednarek got the solitary goal of the match in the 59th minute when he beat his marker at the far post to volley in a swirling free-kick from Rafal Kurzawa.
Japan couldn’t afford to concede another goal and hung on long enough while Colombia edged Senegal 1-0 in the other Group H match taking place at the same time. Colombia topped the group with six points. Japan and Senegal had the same amount of points, goal difference and goals scored. Japan progresses because it got fewer yellow cards than Senegal.
Japan fans in Volgograd cheered despite the loss after confirmation their team reached the knockout stage for the third time. Poland was already out of contention.
Japan knew that a draw against Poland would guarantee their spot in the knockout phase, but events in Group H transpired in such a way that the Samurai Blue progressed on the back of a defeat. It is the third time the East Asians have made it past the group stage at a World Cup finals, having achieved the feat in back in 2002 and 2010.
“We have been here before (in the last 16) in Japanese football and we have earned this. We deserve this. Of course, in the past when we broke through the group stage it was the same: we played to our best strengths and our today mentality is the same. We might have given our best to have come through the group stage, but we haven’t spent everything. My players might be fairly tired but we would like the players to be confident, because we are through, even if it’s against the likes of Belgium and England.” Akira Nishino, Japan coach said after the game.
“We have had to deal with a lot of justified criticism, so that’s why it was clear that the emotional level of this game would be very, very high on the part of the Polish team. After two unsuccessful games with lots of hopes which were not fulfilled – not only hopes on the part of the supporters but also our hopes, we all were certainly hoping for better results in the first two matches. [The win] can offer a little bit of joy to football fans in Poland and the entire team of coaches [but] this is not to somehow sweeten the beer of defeat and the results of our first two matches.” Adam Nawalka, Poland coach said.
“We’re disenchanted with the World Cup. We wanted to pass on to the last 16 and I’m sure this would have been extremely appreciated by our supporters. We wanted to play the last game with pride so that our football fans are happy and so we could return with the shield, not on the shield, so to say. This is a good lesson for us in the future.” Man of the Match, Jan Bednarek who scored the winning goal for Poland said.
Senegal is the first team in history to get eliminated on a new tiebreaker that punishes squads each time their players pick up yellow or red cards. Japan are the first team in history to progress on the fair play rule.
It’s the first time since 1982 that no African team has qualified for the knockout stage.
Colombia and Japan go on to play opponents from Group G — either England or Belgium. Those teams play later Thursday for the top spot in their group.
This is the third time Colombia have reached the last 16.
A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The teams were divided into eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups will proceed to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Russia 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. The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The 11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.