Japan knew that a draw against Poland would guarantee their spot in the knockout phase at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, but events in Group H transpired in such a way that the Samurai Blue progressed on the back of a defeat. It is the third time the East Asians have made it past the group stage at a World Cup finals, having achieved the feat in back in 2002 and 2010.
Akira Nishino made six changes to the line-up that started against Colombia and Senegal, and it would be fair to say the large-scale rotation did his team no favours. The Japanese lacked a cutting edge in attack, and it was Poland who created the two best chances of the game. Shortly before the interval, Eiji Kawashina was forced into a spectacular diving save to claw Kamil Grosicki’s header off the goalline, but the goalkeeper could do nothing about Jan Bednarek’s short-range volleyed finish in the second half.
For the Poles, who even before the start of today’s match knew they were on their way home, it was their first win in the competition.