Costa Rica picked themselves up off the floor to snatch a late victory over Japan at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Sunday’s opening fixture.
Humiliated 7-0 by Spain in their first match, Luis Fernando Suarez’s side showed impressive character to bounce back and snatch the three points through a goal in the 81st minute by Keysher Fuller. The old saying about football being a rollercoaster applies just as equally to Japan, who missed the opportunity to book their place in the last 16 as they fell to earth with a bang after their opening 2-1 comeback win against Germany.
The game lacked a spark in a subdued first half but Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu responded by sending on Takuma Asano and Hiroki Ito in place of Yuto Nagatomo and Ayase Ueda and his side stepped up a gear straight away. They had three attempts inside five minutes after the restart, notably a strike from Hidemasa Morita which Keylor Navas palmed away.
As for Costa Rica, their attacking threat was limited. They had no shot on target in their first game against Spain and here had to wait until the 81st minute when Fuller struck with what was their first attempt on goal of the tournament. Japan defenders missed more than one opportunity to clear their lines and Fuller profited by beating goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda with a lob from just inside the box.
The latest strike is keeping in tradition for a Costa Rica, side who have scored 16 of their 20 World Cup goals in the second half of matches. With it, they became the first team since Paraguay in 1958 to concede seven goals in one game and win the next (a 7-3 loss to France followed by 3-2 win over Scotland).
The closest Japan came to an equaliser was in the 88th minute when substitute Kaoru Mitoma broke to the byline and cut the ball back for Daichi Kamada, whose low shot was stopped by Navas, with Costa Rica surviving the goalmouth scramble that followed.
Result puts Costa Rica level on three points with Japan and Spain, ahead of the day’s Spain v Germany game.
Costa Rica’s winner came from their first attempt on goal of the entire tournament.
Player of the Match:Keysher Fuller
Group E concludes on Wednesday with Japan v Spain and Costa Rica v Germany.