Japan stumbles against Costa Rica to set up all-important final day in Group E

Japan stumbles against Costa Rica to set up all-important final day in Group E

Japan suffered a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on the second day of play in Group E at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but they remain in the hunt for the Round of 16 heading into the group stage's final day.

The Samurai Blue were riding high from their victory over Germany to kick off the tournament and manager Hajime Moriyasu made a slew of changes to attack a Costa Rica team that would present a different challenge. The Ticos were content to sit behind the ball in a low block and Moriyasu hoped a different approach would bear fruit against a team set up to counter.

Despite being the aggressors from the start, Japan were unable to create much in the first half. The blue-clad supporters kept spirits high and urged their team forward, but Moriyasu’s men made little progress.

Takuma Asano and Hiroki Ito came on to start the second half and Japan picked up the pace. Asano, who scored the match-winner against Germany, made an immediate difference as Costa Rica struggled to deal with his movement.

With the Ticos pinned even further back, there was space for midfielders to step into shots and they did just that, with Hidemasa Morita giving it the best go and forcing a good save.

Costa Rica never really ventured forward apart from a single attack in the 81st minute, but unfortunately for Japan it was an attack that made all the difference. Keysher Fuller's shot from distance was the first and only shot on target for the Ticos all game but it found the back of the net, floating past goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda and putting Costa Rica in front.

As Japan pushed for an equalizer, it was another substitute who proved most dangerous. Winger Kaoru Mitoma was a menace off the bench, causing havoc for the Ticos’ right-sided defense with his spectacular dribbling skills, but the Samurai Blue were unable to turn one of his moves into a goal.

Japan’s loss leaves them on three points heading into a group finale against Spain, who have four points. Costa Rica is level with the Samurai Blue on three points, while Germany sit bottom of the group on just one.

The final day of Group E play gives every team a chance to top the group, and every team a chance to finish at the bottom. It’s all to play for as the Samurai Blue have their dreams set on another day of magic in Qatar that could deliver them a spot in the knockout stages.

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