Sat, 28 Jan 2023

DOHA, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Costa Rica bounced back from a humiliating opening game defeat against Spain to overcome Japan 1-0 at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Sunday.

Right back Keysher Fuller scored for the Central American side in the 81st minute as defender Yoshida Maya's clearance sent the ball to Yeltsin Tejeda, who set up Fuller's winning goal.

"Comparing with scoring a goal myself, it's much more important to take the team to a win and keep our hope to advance into the knockout stage," said Fuller. "We were really disappointed by our defeat to Spain, but it also helped us shrug off all the pressure coming into the tournament."

It was only the first shot inside the box and the first attempt on target for Costa Rica at the World Cup.

"People thought we were already out but we are in this together," said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez. "We weren't dead yesterday and now we are still very much alive."

The result made the situation in the group more complex as Costa Rica and Japan both had three points from two games. Spain currently sit at the top of the group on goal difference thanks to their astonishing 7-0 win over Costa Rica on Wednesday.

Germany, who suffered a stunning 2-1 defeat to Japan in their first match, will take on Spain later in the day as another setback would put Hansi Flick's squad on the brink of a group-stage exit.

Japan and Costa Rica's match turned out to be largely lackluster in the first half, as the two sides had only five shots, with none on target.

Head coach Hajime Moriyasu made two substitutions during the break as veteran full back Hiroki Ito replaced Yuto Nagatomo while Takuma Asano filled the place of Brugge forward Ayase Ueda.

"Our tactics were correct, but the result was not what we wanted," said Moriyasu. "We didn't convert the possession to a scoring chance in the first half, so I decided to enhance the attacking in the second."

The four-time Asian champions took control of the ball in the early time after the break as Moriyasu sent on another striker Kaoru Mitoma to replace a defender in the 62nd minute to strengthen the attack, sending out a strong signal that a draw would not be satisfied and pocketing the three points is the priority target.

Yuki Soma's freekick was just a little higher than the crossbar, and Costa Rica's defensive line were tested several times. It seemed that the Japanese team were getting closer to a goal, with the game entering late time.

"We were stuck into a hard fight in the second half, and we couldn't pass the ball well," said Mitoma. "We failed to score a goal in attacking, which made us a little upset and our opponents restored and gradually found confidence."

The decisive moment came in the 81st minute as Fuller took advantage of a defensive error from Japan when Maya failed to clear the ball and Fuller fired it to the up-left corner to put Costa Rica ahead.

"Our opponents improved their level too in the second half, and they grabbed the chance," Moriyasu said.

The Japanese players continued to press for an equalizer but Daichi Kamada's close-range low shot in the 88th minute was saved by Keylor Navas, missing their last scoring chance in the match. The 35-year-old goalkeeper contributed six saves in the match to play a pivotal role in Costa Rica's victory.

"These players did amazing things today. I will not talk about technique or tactics. Today I need to value and appreciate what they have done to get this win," Suarez said.

Japan have never reached the World Cup quarterfinals stage in their previous six appearances as the team came to Doha with a firm goal to rewrite their football history - advancing into the last eight.

The disappointing defeat to Costa Rica put them in a hard situation when facing Spain in their last group match next Thursday.

"Of course, Spain will be tough but there is a good chance for us to win. We will be well prepared and will go into the match with confidence," Moriyasu said.

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