Japan coach had to gamble to stay in World Cup

The Japanese players slowed play down to nearly nothing, softly passing the ball back and forth in little triangles in their own end to waste time. "I forced my players to do what I said, but the World Cup is such that these things happen.The decision was ultimately mine to make". And we went through. I'm sure Poland will play for their pride, and then there is Lewandowski, who is a world-class marksman and I'm sure he will come out to score a goal, so we have to deal with that mentally.

"I decided that I was going to rely on the other match's result".

The fans at the Volgograd Arena showed their displeasure by booing and whistling loudly during the final minutes. Can they end the tournament on a high?

Suddenly Colombia would win the group and Japan were ahead of Senegal despite identical points, goal difference and goals scored, because of the Africans' poorer fair play record. They also played to a draw at 2 on Sunday.

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse made three changes from the last match, adding midfielder Cheikhou, defender Lamine Gassama and forward Keita Balde for the group finale at Samara Stadium. Finally, Bednarek broke the deadlock in the 59th minute of the game when he fired the ball into the nets following a free kick from Kurzawa.

When Bednarek scored, Japan were facing elimination.

A goal by Colombia put Japan back into the knockout round as they would win the tiebreaker against Senegal.

As the game continued, it barely got above walking pace. Unless we keep doing it, in second half we will tire but I think Japan players have good stamina.

Perhaps seeking to guarantee fresher legs in the next round, head coach Akira Nishino made six changes to his team and the gamble nearly backfired spectacularly. All four of Japan's scorers in the previous two games were left on the bench, but the Japanese still had more of the chances in the first half.

His cleverly directed header looked destined for the bottom corner until Kawashima made up huge amounts of ground to claw it to safety with a big right hand at full stretch.

They await the results of the Belgium-England game later tonight as they will face the victor of Group G in the round of 16.

As time went on, however, Japan's grip on the game strengthened and they went close in the 12th minute when Shinji Okazaki headed wide from Yuto Nagatomo's cross.

"We couldn't even get the ball off Colombia, never mind counter against them".

The scenes brought back memories of West Germany's controversial 1-0 win over Austria in the 1982 World Cup, although that had been contrived to eliminate Algeria and send both teams through.

"I did tell Hasebe to tell the team to stay put (at 1-0), not to concede any yellow cards and go to a defensive 4-1-4-1", Nishino said. "It worked against us".

  • Steve Townsend