Costa Rica’s first shot on goal is a good one. And costly for Japan.
By Andrés R. Martínez
Costa Rica made the most of its first shot on goal in this World Cup, scoring on it to beat Japan, 1-0, on Sunday. The victory revives its slim chances of advancing to the next round, puts Japan in the very difficult spot of needing to beat Spain to continue and offers Germany a lifeline.
Japan had controlled the game until the 81st minute, when it gave the ball away to Keysher Fuller, who fired a shot past the fingers of Shuichi Gonda and into the upper right corner of the net.
The result stunned Japan and ended the momentum it was riding after its upset of Germany last week. Japan will need to beat Spain, one of the tournament’s favorites, later this week to advance. The Costa Ricans also did the Germans a huge favor. It cannot be eliminated with a tie or even a loss against Spain and can even win the group with victories in its next two games.
At no point in the game did Costa Rica look like it was going to score a goal — until it did. Japan had more shots, 14, versus Costa Rica’s four, and possessed the ball for 47% of the game. Costa Rica held on to the ball for just 38% of the match.
Japan might have been doomed from the start, when its manager, Hajime Moriyasu, rejiggered the starters against Costa Rica, putting Takuma Asano, who scored the game winner against Germany, on the bench. Moriyasu brought Asano in to start the second half, sparking a relentless assault on Costa Rica’s goal.
The Blue Samurais then took control of the game after a very dull first half from both teams. Japan had one of its best chances in the 70th minute when Costa Rica’s Francisco Calvo fouled a Japanese player right outside the penalty box, earning Japan a free kick. Daichi Kamada missed his attempt.
Both teams have to worry about how aggressively they can play in their final match, after they both racked up three yellow cards Sunday. It’s especially troubling for Costa Rica, whose two strikers, Joel Campbell and Anthony Contreras, have one each.