Costa Rica beat Japan 1-0 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium thanks to a 81st minute strike from Keysher Fuller that blew qualification from World Cup Group E wide open.

Giant killers Japan who shocked Germany in the opening round hardly got a foothold in the game and would be left ruing their chances to qualify for the knockout stages.

Costa Rica bounce back

Costa Rica, who were hammered 7-0 by Spain in their first match, kept their chances alive with the slender win.

Neither side could get a foothold in the first half and it was a cagey occasion with no shots on target. Japan, however, came out the stronger of the two sides with their pressing game and tested rival goalkeeper Keylor Navas through Hidemasa Morita which the Paris St Germain shot stopper parried away.

The Asian outfit looked the more threatening to score but came up short in the final third.

However, it was Costa Rica who capitalized on a rare defensive mistake on the edge of the box as Fuller’s barging effort went past the outstretched arms of Shuichi Gonda in the Japanese goal.

This was incidentally the South American side’s first shot on target in the World Cup. Japan had a late handball shout waved away by the referee as they slumped to an unlikely defeat and must now get a result against Spain in their last group game in order to qualify for the Round of 16.

Japanese reaction to defeat

Despite the loss Japanese head coach Hajime Moriyasu seemed confident about his team’s chances, “We are going for the win. We’ve beaten Germany but it doesn’t mean we can win against Spain. Those countries are World Cup title holders, so we have a lot of respect for them. But we won a match against Germany. Spain will be tough but there is a good chance for us to win. So we will prepare and with confidence go to the next match.”

He continued, “Spain will be a very intense game. We just need to increase the odds for Japan. That’s how I decided the tactics [for today]. The result didn’t work out but we tried and I believe this is what Japan needed.”

Spain later play Germany today in the other second round game in this group.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Sipa USA

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final