Japan reach last 16 on fair play points, will meet Belgium

Posted June 30, 2018

Many Japan fans said they understood the team's passive approach during the World Cup game against Poland on Thursday as a tactic to advance to the knockout stage, but others who had hoped for goals and victory by the Samurai Blue called it a major turnoff.

It is they that will kick on to the knockout stages of the World Cup, despite finishing their group with an identical points and goals tally to Senegal, who'll be on a plane home in the next 48 hours.

It was just the situation that forced me to make the decision and we did not go for the offence. However, both players and coach alike are united in their conviction not to set out for a draw.

As the game continued, it barely got above walking pace.

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

Poland were seeking to restore some pride by eking out a win against Japan and fielded striker Robert Lewandowski in the hope he could break his Russian Federation goal drought.

Gary Lineker, analysing the highlights of the match following Colombia's win over Senegal, echoed the sentiments of most football fans by saying: "This surely goes against what the game stands for".

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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.

Poland squandered a big chance to double their lead on 74 minutes when Grosicki picked out Robert Lewandowski, who fired over the crossbar from close range.

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.

"There is no doubt that our next opponents are going to be stronger than us, " Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo said before the foe was known. Senegal became the first team ever eliminated by a new tiebreaker - number of yellow cards.

The Blue Samurai went through by the slimmest of margins - their fair play record - after the last 10 minutes were played out like a training match as both sides settled for the result.

"We have fewer points in fair play and Senegal doesn't qualify because we don't deserve it", Cisse said. This is how you play football.

Japan will need to play its best game of the tournament to reach the Round of 16.