Doha, Nov 27, 2022, IANS
Costa Rica recovered from the 7-0 hammering they got at the hands of Spain to pull off a shocking 1-0 win over Japan to leave the Group E qualification race wide open in the FIFA World Cup here.
In Sunday's first of the four matches, Keysher Fuller took full advantage of a defensive lapse to score in the 81st minute and keep their dream of reaching the last-16 knockout stage alive.
Japan failed to maintain the same level of play that fetched them a stunning win over Germany, who face Spain later on Sunday. Now all four teams have a chance to qualify for the last 16 stage.
Costa Rica's win is another big shock at the World Cup and nobody had fancied the Central American country's comeback after the hammering they got at the hands of Spain in the last match. Their comeback win is one of the many great stories of the World Cup.
Japan were the better team but were unable to break down Costa Rica who scored through their only shot of target of the match and of the tournament.
The win ended a seven-match winless run at the World Cup, with their last World Cup victories dating back to the 2014 Group Stage, against Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (1-0) respectively and they have beaten Japan for the first time.
After Sunday's result, Spain, Japan and Costa Rica have three points, while Japan and Costa Rica have played two matches each, Spain have played only one. Germany are yet to open their points tally having lost to Japan in their first Group league match.
Japan pride themselves on their precision and accuracy -- they just did not have it on Saturday. Everything went horribly wrong for Japan. They looked out of ideas and looked completely lost.
The game lacked a spark in a subdued first half but Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu responded by sending on Takuma Asano and Hiroki Ito in place of Yuto Nagatomo and Ayase Ueda and his side stepped up a gear straight away. They had three attempts inside five minutes after the restart, notably a strike from Hidemasa Morita which Keylor Navas palmed away.
As for Costa Rica, their attacking threat was limited. They had no shot on target in their first game against Spain and here had to wait until the 81st minute when Fuller struck with what was their first attempt on goal of the tournament.
Japan defenders missed more than one opportunity to clear their lines and Fuller profited by beating goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda with a lob from just inside the box. Gonda should have done better with that. He got a hand to the shot but cannot keep it out.
The closest Japan came to an equaliser was in the 88th minute when Kaoru Mitoma cut the ball back for Daichi Kamada whose low shot was blocked by Navas, with Costa Rica surviving the goalmouth scramble that followed until Navas was able to grab it.
Costa Rica's win has opened the doors for Germans in the tournament, they could still go through to the knockout stage even if they lose to Spain tonight.