19/04/2024
Costa Rica celebrates scoring against Japan

Costa Rica celebrates scoring against Japan [Image: FIFA World Cup - Twitter]

Costa Rica held strong defensively and scored against the run of play as they defeated Japan 1-0 to keep their World Cup alive.

Japan faced Costa Rica at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, with both sides looking for victory for different reasons.

The Samuria Blue looked to all but secure their passage through to the Round of 16 while Los Ticos were looking to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Costa Rica stuck with their five-at-the-back, despite their 7-0 loss to Spain first-up, where they failed to register a shot on goal.

Japan, meanwhile, made five changes to the side that defeated Germany 2-1, as they looked to claim back-to-back victories in the competition.

Five of Japan’s starting XI ply their trade in Germany, while Costa Rica had Paris Saint Germain’s Keylor Navas in goal.

Japan lacked quality with their final ball early on and were unable to create any meaningful chances.

They did have the first real chance of the match 13 minutes in, as Ritsu Doan played a dangerous pass across the Costa Rican six-yard box, but no Japanese player was able to get on the end of it.

After soaking up early pressure from the Samurai Blue, Los Ticos opted to hold onto the ball themselves as they looked to gain a grip on the match.

Japan was looking to play to their strengths with high energy on the ball, while Costa Rica was looking to deploy their physicality in the contest and fire on the counter-attack.

As the half wore on, Japan became more careless in possession in their final third, which meant the play was focused in the middle third. Costa Rica looked to capitalise with more possession, as Joel Campbell had a shot for Los Ticos which flew over the crossbar.

The heat at the ground played its part as Japan dropped into a back five towards the end of the half to see it out until half-time, as their defence played in the sunny half of the stadium in the first stanza.

The match also became more physical, as striker Anthony Contreras picked up a yellow card for Costa Rica, as did right-back Miki Yamane for Japan.

A more resolute Costa Rica defence sat back and saw out all Japanese attacks, as they proved difficult to break down.

The teams went into the sheds at half-time locked at 0-0 after a tame first half, where neither side registered a shot on target and a breakthrough looked unlikely in a shot-shy first half.

Japan was quickly out of the blocks in the second half, as half-time substitute Takuma Asano set up Hidemasa Morita, who forced a strong save out of Navas. Asano then had a tame header collected by Navas less than a minute later.

Costa Rican defenders were forced to make block after block as Japan continued their raid on the Los Ticos goal.

Yuki Soma tried to bend on into the top-right corner on 57 minutes for Japan, but his shot flew wide.

Japan had flicked a switch, metaphorically, with a large majority of possession in the second half, as they piled the pressure on Costa Rica.

Japan (top) had long periods of medium-high attacking pressure in the second half against Costa Rica (bottom) [Credit: Sofascore]

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The Japanese pressure in attack was exemplified by Asana closing down a back pass to Navas, as he nearly forced a mistake from the Costa Rican captain.

Soma had a free kick attempt for Japan just after the hour mark, but was unable to keep his shot down as it flew over.

Japan then had two effort from free kicks blocked in the 72nd minute as time was running out to find the breakthrough.

Minutes later, Japan utilised their pace once again as they made a break, as Soma put in a cross which evaded all the Japanese attackers at the far post.

Japan dominated with long periods of high pressure in the second half but the Costa Rican defence again stood resolute in the face of Samurai Blue attacks.

However, in the 81st minute, against the run of play, Costa Rica pressured Japan into a defensive mistake. Yeltsin Tejida regained possession off a mistimed Japanese clearance from Morita after he gained the ball from a Maya Yoshida mistimed clearance.

Tejida then played in right-back Keysher Fuller, who held his nerve up against Shuichi Gonda in the Japan goal. He got two hands to Fuller’s left-footed shot from just inside the 18-yard-box, but was unable to keep it out as it fell into the left-side of the goal.

Costa Rica scored with their first shot on target at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In the 88th minute, Japan looked all-but-certain to score as Daichi Kamada had a low shot blocked by Bryan Oviedo, then a procession of attempted shots in a goal-mouth scramble led to the ball being in the grasp of Navas.

However, despite all their pressure and chances, particularly in the second half, which included 75% possession, Japan were unable to find a breakthrough. A determined Costa Rica outfit scored against the run of play with their only shot of the second half in what turned out to be the winner in this Group E clash.

The win is just Costa Rica’s sixth in their World Cup Finals history. They had their moment to score and took it to claim victory in this match, despite conceding 13 shots to their four.

They moved level with Japan on three points in Group E as their World Cup hopes remained in their own hands.

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