Published: Sat, June 30, 2018
Sport | By Joe Gonzales

Japan milk 'fair play' system in wretched World Cup defeat to Poland

Japan milk 'fair play' system in wretched World Cup defeat to Poland

Japan enters the last day of Group H play tied with Senegal in first place, but they still aren't guaranteed a spot in the knockout rounds of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The defeat left Japan on the same points, goals and goal difference as Senegal, who were also 1-0 losers on Wednesday to Colombia in Samara, but it was Akira Nishino's side that snuck into the last 16 at the expense of the Africans.

"It was an ultimate decision for me to make". However, both players and coach alike are united in their conviction not to set out for a draw.

The game began at a slow pace. The Belgians made nine changes from their previous match while the English switched eight players.

Japan were playing deep in their own half with five minutes to go, bizarrely holding on while trailing by 1-0 as an equaliser for Senegal against Colombia would have seen them eliminated.

"It was the right decision", said Taiga Izumi, an 18-year-old university student from Tokyo, who watched the match in Volgograd.

Poland had to wait until the 32nd minute for a chance as Bartosz Bereszynski picked out Kamil Grosicki, who met the cross with a header that was palmed away by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. Scampering across his goal before diving, Kawashima clawed the ball to safety just before it had crossed the line.

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Japan faces Group G victor Belgium on Monday in Rostov-on-Don.

Poland star striker Robert Lewandowski missed a good chance to double the lead in the 74th minute, meaning he failed to score in all three matches he played at the World Cup in Russian Federation.

"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.

"After the first two games against Senegal and Colombia, our team had to deal with a lot of justified criticism so it was clear the emotional level of this game would be extremely high for the Polish team", he said. That resulted in the rarely-used fair play rule to determine which team advanced.

Adnan Januzaj curled in the victor six minutes after the restart, saving Belgium from finishing second behind England on fair play points. "You have to be in contact with other players when you play football".

Japan will now face either England or Belgium in the last-16.

Poland, for the third straight World Cup that it has competed in, lost its first two group matches and then won its third.

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