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Japan 0-1 Costa Rica: Fuller strike leaves World Cup door ajar for Germany
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David Segar
Stats Perform
Keysher Fuller (L) celebrates his goal for Costa Rica against Japan at the 2022 World Cup
Keysher Fuller (L) celebrates his goal for Costa Rica against Japan at the 2022 World Cup

Costa Rica produced a late smash and grab to beat Japan 1-0 on Sunday, giving themselves and Germany a potential route back into the World Cup in the process.

A listless contest that looked set to become the sixth stalemate of the tournament so far finally produced something of note when Keysher Fuller curled a shot into the top-left corner with nine minutes remaining.

Japan had largely been the better side, particularly in the second half, but Costa Rica took the lead with their first shot on target of the tournament.

The result leaves both teams on three points heading into the final games, with Germany now in with a chance of progressing to the knockout stage with a win against Costa Rica in their final game whatever their result against Spain later on Sunday.

The only real moment of note in a tentative first half came when Ritsu Doan fizzed a low ball across the six-yard box from the right, but there were no Japan players on hand to get on the end of it.

Takuma Asano came on at half-time and the change nearly yielded an immediate impact as his touch to Hidemasa Morita 25 seconds into the second period led to the latter having the first shot on target of the contest, with Keylor Navas diving to his left to palm it away.

Japan showed more intent to go and win the game in the second half, with Yuki Soma first cutting inside from the left and firing high and wide, before putting a free-kick from the edge of the box over the bar.

The surprise moment came in the 81st minute though as a poor Japan clearance saw the ball come to Yeltsin Tejeda, who played in Fuller to shoot, with Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda getting stuck under the ball and failing to keep it out.

What does it mean? Costa Rica sneak unlikely win

This really felt like a game between two teams who did not know how to be the aggressor, at least in an attacking sense as Japan conceded 12 fouls in the first half.

After a blocked shot from Costa Rica's Gerson Torres in the fourth minute, neither team attempted another shot of any kind until the 35th minute.

However, keeping things simmering was perhaps the plan all along for Luis Fernando Suarez's men, who had just four shots to 13, with their goal being the only one on target, but it was enough to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

From filthy sheet to a clean one

Costa Rica did not start the World Cup very well, which seems like a slightly understated way of putting it.

Their 7-0 defeat to Spain was due to being dragged this way and that and being unable to cope, but they were more solid against the admittedly more limited Japan.

Japan unable to back it up

Japan had never previously lost to Costa Rica, winning three and drawing one of their four prior meetings.

They just could not get going here though and have still never won both of their first two fixtures of a single edition at the World Cup.

What's next?

Japan's final Group E clash comes against Spain, while Costa Rica finish up against Germany, with both games taking place simultaneously on Thursday.


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