WORLD CUP 2018: ​Japan advance despite loss to Poland

Poland have secured a consolation 1-0 win over Japan to close out their World Cup campaign, but other results meant that Japan still advanced to the knockout rounds despite the loss. Japan, whose spot in the knockout stages was far from confirmed, surprised many by naming a weaker lineup, with Inui and Shinji Kagawa relegated to the bench. Poland were playing for nothing but pride, and were put on the back foot by Japan who pushed the ball forward and applied most of the pressure in the early stages of the match. Poland took their time but did eventually work their way into the game, testing Kawashima a couple of times in the first half but failing to create any clear goalscoring opportunities by the half hour mark. Their best chance came with 32 minutes played, after a bullet header from Grosicky was just scraped out by Kawashima, with the ball just millimetres from crossing the line. At half-time, the score remained 0-0 with neither side having made the breakthrough. After the restart of play, both sides again probed but struggled to forge real opportunities. The first decent chance of the half came from an unlikely source, as Japanese centre-back Tomoaki Makino attempted a spectacular bicycle kick which flew just wide. Finally at the hour mark, Poland were able to break the deadlock, with centre-back Jan Bednarek getting on the end of a long free kick and poking home an unlikely goal. With scores level in the simultaneous Senegal and Colombia clash, the goal saw Japan fall to third spot in the group. In desperate need of a goal, Japan made their first change by bringing on the in form Takashi Inui for Takashi Usami. With 20 minutes to play, Poland launched a quick counter attack and Robert Lewandowski was handed a chance to kill the game off, but blasted his shot over the bar. The news got better for Japan after Colombia opened the scoring against Senegal, putting Japan into second place in the group by the finest of margins, fair play points. The match failed to provide any more highlights during play, as the match finished 1-0 in Poland's favour. Japan still faced an intense wait to see if they would progress, as they had to wait and see if Senegal could secure a late point against Colombia. The Senegalese side couldn't land the killer blow, and as full time blew in that game, Japan's spot in the Round of 16 was confirmed. Japan will go on to face the winner of the Belgium v England match in the Round of 16. WORLD CUP - GROUP H Japan - 0 Poland - 1 (Bednarek 59') Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

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