Japan make last 16 on disciplinary rule despite Poland loss
- Author: Kyle Peterson Jun 29, 2018,
Jun 29, 2018, 18:22
"It was an ultimate decision for me to make". I forced my players to do what I said.
With Poland already eliminated and Colombia booking their ticket with the defeat of Senegal, it came down to a technicality to decide the runners-up in the group. Muto was one of six changes to the starting lineup for the match. In two losses, Poland has only scored a single goal and the Bayern Munich striker is still trying to make an impact at the World Cup. We did not go through with victory, but we just relied on the other match and I feel that it was slightly regrettable but I suppose at that point I didn't have any other plans.
Furious fans hit out at the Japanese approach on social media, with some even going as far to suggest they should be thrown out of the tournament for apparent collusion.
Barcelona's Yerry Mina's goal in the 74th minute was the difference as the South American finished top of the group.
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.
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.
Rafal Kurzawa swung a free kick to the back post where wide-open Jan Bednarek met it with his right foot to put Poland ahead with just over 30 minutes remaining.
"What if we conceded another goal and it was 0-2?" he said.
Japan lacked their usual fluency and Eiji Kawashami's superb sprawling save from Kamil Grosicki was the highlight of a dour first half, with goalline technology confirming the header did not cross the line.
As a result, no African team advanced from the first round of the World Cup for the first time since 1982.
Then, with nine minutes remaining, Tomoaki Makino - in an attempt to intercept another unsafe cross by Grosicki - could only send the ball towards his own goal but Kawashima reacted well to make the save.
Fans pay big money to attend World Cup matches for the experience and to be entertained but neither Japan and Poland cared about that on this occasion.