Japan survive in World Cup despite 0-1 loss to Poland

Yuya Osako Japan 2018 World Cup

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Japanese players leave the pitch after the group H match between Japan and Poland at the 2018 World Cup at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd, Russia, Thursday.

Japan will go on to face the victor of the Belgium v England match in the Round of 16. The manager changed six players from the team that started both previous games against Colombia and Senegal - including all front four attackers - and the decision nearly backfired spectacularly.

In the waning moments, Japan trailed 1-0, but because of what was happening in the other Group H game between Colombia and Senegal, a loss by a single goal was fine. With Colombia leading Senegal 1-0 in the group's other tie, defeat nevertheless wouldn't have been decisive for Japan.

But due to the West Africans' poorer disciplinary record - they finished with six yellow cards to Japan's four - they will be going home. Widely regarded as an unsatisfying way of deciding qualification, the farcical nature of Japan's willingness to do nothing at all, completely relying, as Nishino alluded to; "the other match".

Poland responded by creating their only significant chance of the first half with Kamil Grosicki seeing an excellent header clawed away from the bottom corner by Eiji Kawashima.

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Japan has failed to score in 4 of the 5 previous World Cup matches against European teams with their last goal coming in a 3-1 victory over Denmark.

Then came the goal all of Japan was dreading.

As news filtered through that Colombia had scored in Samara both teams closed up shop and the game ground to a halt, much to the annoyance of the majority Russian crowd.

Nishino is wary about the fierce heat in Volgograd, with the temperature at kick-off around 37 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) and said he would choose his team based on who coped best with the cauldron-like conditions in training.

"My players were very loyal in listening to me and following my decision".

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It was not pretty, but Japan did what was necessary to survive at the World Cup.

"There was booing in the stadium and I am sure that the players heard that and I feel that was regrettable".

"We haven't qualified because of fair play".

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

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

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Japan squeezed through because they had been shown only four yellow cards to Senegal's six, ensuring that the Asian side will next face a daunting task against the winners of Thursday's Group G decider between England and Belgium.

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