VOLGOGRAD, Russia. June 28 – Jan Bednarek netted his first international goal for Poland as they triumphed 1:0 over Japan in their final group game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Final score: Poland – Japan 1:0
Despite the loss which Akira Nishino bizarrely made six changes to an unbeaten team, Japan became the first team to qualify from the group stages via fair play rankings.
The Samurai Blue had beaten Colombia and drawn with Senegal to enter their final Group H match, against Adam Nawalka’s already-eliminated Poland, requiring only a point to reach the last 16.
But Japan scarcely threatened as Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui started on the bench and they were instead dependent on results elsewhere after Bednarek broke the deadlock in the 59th minute.
The Southampton FC defender scored his first international goal as he side-footed home Rafal Kurzawa’s inviting free-kick from the left that gave Poland the game winner.
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski afterwards also had an opportunity to put the Poles up by 2:0 but saw his shot go over the crossbar.
Meanwhile elsewhere, Colombia’s Yerry Mina came to Nishino’s rescue, though, as his goal defeated Senegal and ensured Japan progressed in second place due to their superior disciplinary record.
Senegal’s six yellow cards to Japan’s four ultimately cost the African side, who exit Russia in disappointing circumstances alongside Poland.
On this showing, neither England nor Belgium – Japan’s potential last-16 opponents – will fear playing Nishino’s men, who will be grateful simply to make the knockout stages and may well be unrecognisable after this risky experiment.
Japan – Poland 0:1 (0:0)
Goals: Bednarek 59′
Yellow carded: Makino
Referee: Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) Attendance: 42 189
Japan: 1. Eiji Kawashima – 19. Hiroki Sakai, 22. Maya Yoshida, 20. Tomoaki Makino, 5. Yūto Nagatomo – 21. Gōtoku Sakai, 16. Hotaru Yamaguchi, 7. Gaku Shibasaki, 9. Shinji Okazaki (47, 15. Yūya Ōsako), 11. Takashi Usami (65, 14. Takashi Inui) – 13. Yoshinori Mutō (82, 17. Makoto Hasebe)
Poland: 22. Łukasz Fabiański – 18. Bartosz Bereszyński, 15. Kamil Glik, 5. Jan Bednarek, 3. Artur Jędrzejczyk – 11. Kamil Grosicki, 10. Grzegorz Krychowiak, 6. Jacek Góralski, 19. Piotr Zieliński (79, 14. Łukasz Teodorczyk), 21. Rafał Kurzawa (80, 17. Sławomir Peszko) – 9. Robert Lewandowski
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