DOHA: Luis Fernando Suarez said his Costa Rica team were “still very much alive” at the World Cup after a 1-0 win over Japan on Sunday blew Group E wide open -- and handed a potential...
DOHA: Luis Fernando Suarez said his Costa Rica team were “still very much alive” at the World Cup after a 1-0 win over Japan on Sunday blew Group E wide open -- and handed a potential lifeline to Germany.
Japan, who shocked four-time champions Germany 2-1 in their opener in Qatar, would have taken a giant stride towards the last 16 with a win.
Instead they laboured in the first half against a Costa Rica side who were hammered 7-0 by Spain, then defender Keysher Fuller scored in the 81st minute with a deflected strike on the counterattack.
It was Costa Rica’s first shot on target at this World Cup and left them, leaders Spain and Japan all on three points. Spain face Germany later Sunday in a group widely seen as the toughest at the tournament.
“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,” said Suarez, whose side meets Germany on Thursday.
“We weren´t dead yesterday and now we are still very much alive. Nobody can forget about us yet so we can still dream.
“People thought we were already out but we are in this together.”
Japan made five changes to the team which stunned Germany as coach Hajime Moriyasu made full use of his 26-man squad.
In temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Japan immediately went on the attack and won a corner within 30 seconds.
Suarez made just two changes to the team thumped by Spain, Gerson Torres and 34-year-old centre-back Kendall Waston taking their places in an ageing XI which featured four players from the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
But Japan’s early promise melted in the Doha sun and the first shot at goal -- a tame effort which sailed high and wide -- did not come until 10 minutes from half-time through Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell.
A dreary first half came to a close with “Los Ticos” having had more of the ball but neither side mustering a shot on target.
Moriyasu had seen enough and made a double change at the break, one of them the introduction of Bundesliga-based striker Takuma Asano, who scored the winner against the Germans.
The Blue Samurai were immediately more incisive and midfielder Hidemasa Morita drew the first proper save of the match within seconds of the restart.
Yoshida rallies Japan after Costa Rica disappointment
Japan captain Maya Yoshida urged his team to stick together after their 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on Sunday and believes a place in the knock-out round is still within their reach.
Yoshida said the Blue Samurai struggled to come down from the high of beating Germany in their opening game and found it "difficult" to prepare for Costa Rica, who were coming off a 7-0 thrashing by Spain.
“We didn´t have the same mentality as against Germany today, probably -- that was our big mistake," Yoshida said, after losing to a Costa Rica side that scored in the 81st minute with their first shot on target.
“It’s too easy to say we give up. Our strength is solidarity and unity. Again, we need to stick together and try to get the three points in the next game.”
Japan looked a shadow of the vibrant side that roared back to stun Germany as they toiled against a defence-minded Costa Rica.
“After the huge win against Germany and a big defeat for Costa Rica against Spain, it was a very difficult preparation, mentally," he said. “I’ve been asking myself all the time for these past three days, are you ready? I asked that to the squad as well.”
Japan had the lion’s share of possession but failed to carve out many clear-cut chances against a Costa Rica side playing with five defenders.