Japan squandered an opportunity to advance early to the FIFA World Cup 2022 last 16 after Keysher Fuller’s goal 10 minutes from time gave Costa Rica a surprise 1-0 win in a match in which they had barely any chances.
The Samurai blue failed to ride the momentum of their shock win over Germany and will rue missed opportunities after showing little creativity against a Costa Rican side who defended resolutely after their 7-0 drubbing by Spain last time out.
Against the run of play, in Costa Rica’s only effort on target in the entire match, Fuller curled a shot from the edge of the area beyond the reach of keeper Shuichi Gonda and into the net, leaving Japan stunned.
Japan battled hard to salvage something from the game but smuggled to create space and panicked in the dying moments.
The result left Japan with a tough challenge to advance to the knockout stages, with Spain as their final Group E opponents on Thursday.
Japan (4-2-3-1): Shuichi Gonda; Miki Yamane, Kou Itakura, Maya Yoshida (capt), Yuto Nagatomo; Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita; Ritsu Doan, Daichi Kamada, Yuki Soma; Ayase Ueda
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Costa Rica (5-3-2): Keylor Navas; Keysher Fuller, Oscar Duarte, Francisco Calvo, Bryan Oviedo, Kendall Waston; Celso Borges, Yeltsin Tejeda, Gerson Torres; Anthony Contreras, Joel Campbell
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez (COL)
Referee: Michael Oliver (ENG)
(With input from agencies)