Japan reach last 16 despite loss to Poland

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski has endured a disappointing tournament

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski has endured a disappointing tournament

The Asians need a draw to advance to the knockout rounds after they beat Colombia and drew with Senegal in their opening Group H games, defying low expectations at the start of the tournament.

"The situation forced me to make this decision".

"My players were very loyal in listening to me and following my decision".

But the "fair play" suggestion been met with disdain by football fans after Japan clearly stopped trying to play in the final stages of their 1-0 loss to Poland. The manager changed six players from the team that started both previous games against Colombia and Senegal - including all front four attackers - and the decision nearly backfired spectacularly.

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Poland who came close to scoring the game's second goal as Lewandowski spurned his only chance of the match so far, appearing to lose his footing somewhat as he fired over the bar from close range.

"I decided that I was going to rely on the other match's result", Nishino told reporters.

In their detailed rundown of training following the 2-2 draw with Senegal, the Japanese Football Association made no mention of injury concerns or players under observation, suggesting a clean bill of health for their squad.

Japan and Senegal finished with the same number of points, the same goal difference and the same number of goals scored.

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Southampton defender Jan Bednarek's well-taken volley from Rafal Kurzawa's free-kick won the match for Poland, who had been eliminated before the game.

"It was for us more important for us to get into the next round than to win the match, " Japan midfielder Gotoku Sakai said. Japan, therefore, reached the round of 16 along with Colombia, with England or Belgium lying in wait. 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.

With nothing to play for, Polish coach Adam Nawałka will be looking to make quite a lot of changes to his starting XI with Lukasz Fabianski expected to make his first start of this World Cup and Kamil Glik being restored in defence.

Senegal, however, has become the first victim of the new tiebreaker. 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.

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Japan lost to Poland but qualified for the World Cup round of 16 by virtue of a better disciplinary record than Group F rivals Senegal.

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