At Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Costa Rica finally got off their run at the World Cup with a win over Japan by a score of 1-0.
After suffering a humiliating loss to Spain by the score of 7-0 in their first match, the team captained by Luis Fernando Suarez placed emphasis on defensive solidity. They were able to keep their opponents at a sufficient distance throughout the game, even as the temperature in the early afternoon exceeded 30 degrees.
However, Costa Rica made Japan pay for their inability to capitalise on their greater attacking prowess when Keysher Fuller curved a shot over Shuichi Gonda (81), with the team’s first shot on target in the competition. This was Costa Rica’s first shot on target in the tournament.
Group E is now wide open thanks to the late winner, with three teams sitting on three points: Costa Rica, Japan, and Spain (who play Germany later tonight).
Japan appeared confident following their unexpected victory over Germany in their most recent match, and they got out to a quick start against Costa Rica to put them on the defensive right away. They quickly took command of the pace of the game and eventually won.
Ritsu Doan of Japan sent an enticing pass across the box from the right side, requiring only one touch to find the back of the net. On the opposite end of the field, former Arsenal forward Joel Campbell’s impromptu shot cleared the crossbar by several feet.
The organisation of the Costa Rican defence, which Kendall Waston marshalled, was the highlight of an otherwise lacklustre first half. Given the absence of an attacking effort, this was likely the case.
At the halftime break, Hajime Moriyasu changed his team’s shape by switching to a back three to stimulate creativity. The change was successful immediately, as the halftime substitute Takuma Asano forced the goalkeeper to make a save with his first touch.
The Japanese started to take control of the game once more, but it was impossible to remove the feeling that it was a Sunday league match. Their passing became less accurate, and their crosses and long balls were sometimes played too slowly or poorly executed, resulting in squandered opportunities.
The turning point finally arrived at that point. Because Hidemasa Morita was careless with the ball, Yeltsin Tejeda was able to set up Fuller for the shot that went over Gonda’s head. The goalkeeper was stationed quite a distance from his line, and although he got his fingertips on the shot, he could not prevent it from going over the top and into the net.
Then, in the dying embers, Keylor Navas produced two saves of his own, the first coming from Daichi Kamada and the second from Asano, but luck was not on Japan’s side.