Japan go down to Costa Rica
Despite leaking seven goals against Spain and being on the backfoot for most of this early afternoon game, Costa Rica have ensured they are not going home.
Yuto Nagatomo asked the crowd to get behind Japan and two enclosures in blue on the lower tier and those in Japan’s colours everywhere else obliged by clapping and stomping feet. Seconds later, Nagatomo was haring down the left in a bid to break into the Costa Rica penalty box. It fetched a corner kick and made clear to everyone at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium what Japan’s intentions would be in this Group E game.
The thought was embellished by Ritsu Doan fizzing a ball across Keylor Navas’ goal. Daichi Kamada and Miki Yamane tried to get a combination going on the right as Japan began briskly. They had left Takefusa Kubo, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kaoru Mitoma and Takumi Minamino on the bench as coach Hajime Moriyasu opted for fresh legs and it showed in the start his team made.
To think then that Japan lost 0-1 to an 81st-minute goal felt like the kind of sucker punch they had dished out to Germany earlier in the week. Despite leaking seven goals against Spain and being on the back foot for most of this early afternoon game, Costa Rica have ensured they are not going home.
That happened through Keysher Fuller’s goal, one that stemmed from two errors from Japan. First, they gave the ball away cheaply outside their penalty area and then goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda’s positioning meant he could get hands on the ball but not enough to keep it from going in.
Costa Rica scored with their first shot on target in this World Cup. On Sunday, they did not have a shot till the 36th minute when Joel Campbell tried one that really went nowhere.
“The more they think of us dead, the better it brings out our best,” said Fuller, referring to the 0-7 defeat against Spain in the first game. “Imagine coming to a World Cup and losing that way! We worked much harder after that game to be here.” The main thing about this team is its attitude, said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez.
On either side of the goal, Japan kept trying to breach Navas’ goal. After the brisk start, the first half was spent in patient probing. That made way for a three-back defence and more aggression as Kubo and Mitoma came on soon after the hour mark. But Costa Rica continues to sit deep and absorbed everything Japan fired at them.
Encapsulating that was an 88th-minute raid that had Mitoma swerving in from almost on the byline on the left and finding Kamada whose shot was saved by an outstretched Navas leg. But though the ball pinged inside the area, it wasn’t close enough for any Japanese player to get a connection. Takuma Asano banging his hand on the pitch said it all.
“I don’t think it was luck that hurt us today,” said former Japan star Keisuke Honda who is here on media duty. “Instead, it showed our (lack of) quality. Costa Rica played to a plan and it was successful for them,” said the former AC Milan player with 98 caps for Japan.
The result was a shame, said Moriyasu but “our intensity was not.” The Japan coach said they have come here to qualify after three games, not two. “The approach will be different but we are going to try and win against Spain,” he said.