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Japan’s Discipline Keeps Them in FIFA 2018


Japan’s Discipline Keeps Them in FIFA 2018

Japan 0-1 Poland

The Samurai Blue of Japan made it through to the Round of 16 despite losing to a Jan Bednarek goal, but only on the strength of their disciplinary record.

Level with Senegal on points and goal difference, Akira Nishino’s side stays at FIFA 2018 because they had fewer yellow cards. And for no other reason because they were dreadful today!

Japan arrived in Volgograd knowing their destiny was in their own hands, even though FIFA 2018 betting markets considered Akira Nishino’s team rank outsiders at the beginning of Group H. They needed just a point to be sure of making it through to the Round of 16.

It’s been a dismal campaign for Adam Nawalka’s Poland, already packing their bags after just two games and after so much was expected from the eighth-best side in the world. And now, there are rumours circulating in Poland that Robert Lewandowski is considering retiring from international football, just to make matters worse. But this being his 98th cap, I’d have thought he might play another two.

He’s not been in the best of moods, accused of criticising his team-mates, and was recently reminded of a tweet he sent to FC Bayern team-mate James Rodriguez, saying he was ready to light up Russia. But he hasn’t, and James played a blinder as Colombia hammered Poland 3-0 to dump Lewandowski out of the cup.

Highlights

The Japan fans were out in their numbers and had a constant ear out for the FIFA 2018 updates coming from the Cosmos Arena in Samara, where Senegal was battling it out with Colombia for the other vacant place. If they lost to Poland and the other game was a draw, they’d be going home.

And that seemed to be preying on the minds of Nishino’s team in a pretty uneventful first half where they seemed happy to contain a Poland side which looked dangerous at its best but disinterested most of the time. When they did threaten, Okazaki headed away a dangerous ball from Kamil Grosicki, and then keeper Eiji Kawashima made a superb one-handed save to keep Grosicki out after his header seemed destined for the corner of the net.

Early in the second half, Kawashima had to be on this toes again as Poland broke with menace. Grosicki’s ball into Piotr Zielinski was just to close to the keeper and he dealt with the danger.

But it all went pear-shaped for Japan on the hour.

Poland had suddenly become more interested. When Rafal Kurzawa crossed, it was the unlikely figure of the unmarked Jan Bednarek who met it, and the Southampton defender volleyed home for his first international goal.

And with Senegal and Colombia still drawing, Japan was on the way out; now, they needed a goal in Samara or somehow find one themselves.

Lewandowski had his first clear sight of goal on 73 minutes when Poland broke again: Grosicki sprinted down the right and squared for his captain, but the Bundesliga top scorer fired over the bar.

As news came through that Colombia had scored in Samara, Japan’s task became slightly more complicated. They would still qualify, ahead of Senegal, but with the same goal difference, they would go through on the number of yellow cards they have received, two fewer than Senegal.

And when Nishino communicated that to the pitch, we went into a stand-off. Japan tried to avoid a booking, while Poland were happy to play out a one-goal win; but if Senegal scored in Samara, that would put Japan out.

They didn’t and Japan went through, but it wasn’t impressive or good to watch.

Playing for a draw against a wounded team is rarely a good idea. Particularly one ranked 53 places higher by FIFA! But Japan got away with it.

Key statistics

Our SBOBET odds predicted a tight game with Poland as marginal favourites at 2.71, and on the balance of play, they deserved to win.

It’s the first time they’ve beaten Japan, losing two previous meetings without scoring a goal. And the victory means they have avoided the humiliation of losing all three games for the first time.

And it’s the first time Poland have kept a clean sheet since 1986, but I bet they haven’t had an easier task than this.

What’s next?

So Colombia went through as winners of Group H and Japan in second place. The Round of 16 awaits them and they will face either England or Belgium. I fear discipline won’t save them again.

And what of Poland? Well, I suppose Nawalka will try to persuade his captain to stay on for a while until he finds a suitable replacement!

 

 

 

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Stuart Wilkin
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