Poland bow out with a win as Japan progresses to knockout stage
Poland 1 (Bednarek 59′)
By Patrick Woods
Japan has progressed to the knockout stage of the World Cup despite losing to Poland 1-0, after finishing ahead of Senegal due to the Fair Play rule.
A second half goal to Polish fullback Jan Bednarek was the difference on a hot afternoon in Volgograd, where temperatures got as high as 36 degrees.
In the other Group H match, a 1-0 win for Colombia against Senegal meant the Africans and Japan finished on equal competition points as well as having matching goal difference.
Because the two teams drew their head-to-head match, the Fair Play rule was used as the tie-breaker.
Japan accumulated only four yellow cards throughout the tournament compared to Senegal’s six, giving them second place in the group and a spot in the knockout stage.
With six changes to Japan’s starting side and five changes to Poland’s, it took some time for both teams to settle into the game.
Japan controlled much of the first half, but it was Poland’s Kamil Grosicki who had the best chance of the opening stanza when his header from next to the penalty spot was goal-bound only for Eiji Kawashima to dive full-length to his right to make a one-handed save.
Goal-line technology confirmed ‘no goal’ even though more than half the ball had crossed the line before Kawashima scooped it back into play.
— FIFA World Cup ???? (@FIFAWorldCup) June 28, 2018
Both Group H games were locked at 0-0 at half-time, putting Senegal and Japan in position to qualify.
This changed in the 59th minute when a curling free kick from well outside the box found Bednarek who volleyed on-the-fly to give Kawashima no chance.
Japan struggled to put themselves back into the game in the heat, and when news came from Samara that Colombia had taken the lead in its match, the Blue Samurai looked content to settle for a 1-0 loss.
As exhaustion set in, Japan put their faith in Colombia, happily passing the ball around their back four while Poland didn’t appear interested in pushing for a second goal.
The Colombians finished 1-0 winners over Senegal in the other match, sending Japan through to a round-of-16 clash with Group G winners Belgium.
Poland is heading home after a disappointing campaign with one win, despite entering the tournament ranked the number eight team in the world.
Shot Attempts (On Target):
Japan: 10 (3)
Poland: 11 (2)
Japan: 1 Kawashima (GK) (c), 5 Nagatomo, 20 Makino, 21 Sakai, 19 Sakai, 22 Yoshida, 11 Usami (65’), 16 Yamaguchi, 7 Shibasaki, 9 Okazaki (47’), 13 Muto (82’)
Substitutes: 2 Ueda, 3 Shoji, 4 Honda, 6 Endo, 8 Haraguchi, 10 Kagawa, 12 Higashiguchi (GK), 14 Inui (65’), 15 Osako (47’), 17 Hasebe (82’), 18 Oshima, 23 Nakamura (GK)
Poland: 22 Fabiański (GK), 3 Jędrzejczyk, 5 Bednarek, 6 Góralski, 15 Glik, 18 Bereszyński, 10 Krychowiak, 11 Grosicki, 21 Kurzawa (79’), 19 Zielinski (79’), 9 Lewandowski (c)
Substitutes: 1 Szczęsny (GK), 20 Piszczek, 4 Cionek, 2 Pazdan, 13 Rybus, 16 Błaszczykowski, 7 Milik, 8 Linetty, 12 Bialkowski (GK), 14 Teodorczyk (79’), 17 Peszko(79’), 23 Kownacki