Costa Rica stunned Japan 1-0 thanks to a late own goal Globalism The Group E cup will open its doors wide on Sunday and deliver a potential lifeline to Germany.
Japan, who shocked 4-time defending champions Germany 2-1 in their opening match in Qatar, could have taken a giant step towards the last 16 with their victory.
Instead, they worked large parts of the match against Costa Rica who were beaten 7-0 by Spain, then defender Kesher Fuller scored in the 81st minute with a deflected kick.
This was Costa Rica’s first shot on goal in the World Cup finals and could be of great benefit to the Germans.
The result left Spain, Japan and Costa Rica with three points. Spain will face Germany later on Sunday in another crucial match.
Japan made five changes to the squad that shocked Germany in their opening match, with coach Hajime Moriyasu making full use of his 26-man squad.
In the 32 °C (90 °F) temperatures of Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Japan immediately went on the attack and won a corner kick within 30 seconds to signal their intent.
Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez has resisted sweeping changes to the team Spain beat, dropping teenage winger Jason Bennett and defender Carlos Martinez to the bench.
Gerson Torres and the 34-year-old Kendall and Aston backline took their places in the aging starting line-up that included four players from the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
But Japan’s early promise melted in the Doha sun and their first shot on goal – a dreadful effort that flew high and wide – did not come until 10 minutes from half-time through Costa Rican 30-year-old Joel Campbell.
A dismal first half drew to a close as Los Tecos had more of the ball but neither side had a shot on goal.
Moriyasu had seen enough and made a double change at the break, one being the introduction of Bundesliga pro striker Takuma Asano, who scored the winning goal against the Germans.
The Samurai Blue were more immediately chipping away and quarterback Hidemasa Morita made the first right save of the game within seconds of the restart with a powerful shot.
Moriyasu threw Brighton striker Kaoru Mitoma back after an hour as Japan chased for the win that would put them on the cusp of the last 16.
It was all about Japan as the match went on for the last 20 minutes in front of 41,000 spectators.
Substitute Junya Eto’o looked like he moved freely and was closing in on goal, only for Costa Rican defender Francisco Calvo to sarcastically push him to the edge of the box, earning him a yellow card that could easily have been red.
Costa Rica did nothing for most of the game as an attacking force, but nine minutes into normal time they stole it when Fuller’s shot deflected and deflected.
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