Sunday 24 February 2019

Japan seek Pole position

Group H: Poland v Japan, Live, BBC2 (KO 3.0)

Japan’s Shinji Kagawa in training yesterday
Japan’s Shinji Kagawa in training yesterday

A revived Japan go into today's decisive Group H match against an already-eliminated Poland knowing a draw would be sufficient to advance to the knockout rounds after they beat Colombia and drew with Senegal in their opening fixtures.

Given little hope coming into the tournament, a combination of luck - Colombia had a man sent off and gave away a penalty after just three minutes - organisation and clinical finishing has put Japan in prime position to progress.

Although a draw would be enough, Japan's philosophy under new coach Akira Nishino has been an attacking one and they are likely to go for the win against the disappointing Poles.

"Japan are not the kind of team that can aim for a point and go and carry that plan out," captain Makoto Hasebe said.

"I think we have to focus on getting three points rather than make calculations. We have four points after two games but we haven't accomplished anything yet."

Nishino promised attacking football when he took over in April and his side have obliged in Russia, with four goals scored and a hatful of chances created.

"I really wanted to win," the coach said after their 2-2 draw against Senegal on Sunday, when they came from behind twice and equalised in the 78th minute. "We wanted to get the lead even though there was only a short period of time left."

Japan's task is likely to be made easier by the bitterly disappointing form of their opponents, Poland - ranked eighth in the world - but who have lost both their games and have scored just once.

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