Tue | Jan 31, 2023

Costa Rica surprise Japan with late goal

Published:Monday | November 28, 2022 | 12:08 AM
Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller (left) celebrates after scoring his side’s winning goal during the World Cup Group E match between Japan and Costa Rica at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan , Qatar yesterday.
Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller (left) celebrates after scoring his side’s winning goal during the World Cup Group E match between Japan and Costa Rica at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan , Qatar yesterday.

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP):

Essentially written off after being battered by Spain, Keysher Fuller has changed everything for Costa Rica.

Fuller took advantage of a defensive error and scored the only goal of the match to lead his team over Japan 1-0 yesterday at the World Cup. Both teams now have three points after two matches and a good chance to advance to the round of 16 from Group E.

“We’re still alive,” said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez, a Colombian who also guided Ecuador and Honduras to World Cup berths. “We weren’t dead yesterday, and now we are very much in this. We can still dream.”

Fuller scored his goal in the 81st minute after Japan failed to clear the ball. He hit the net from 18 metres, with the shot going in off the fingertips of leaping Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.

The match at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium was tactical and largely lacklustre, particularly in a first half that did not yield a single shot on goal. Japan pressed throughout the second half until Costa Rica broke through.

Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas came up with several saves in quick succession in the final minutes to ensure the victory.

Japan have one Group E game remaining against Spain, while Costa Rica face Germany in their final match. With a victory, Japan could have all but wrapped up a place in the knockout stage after a 2-1 upset win over Germany in its opener. Costa Rica were pounded by Spain 7-0 in their first game and just trying to survive.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said Costa Rica’s “solid defence” prevented his team from attacking more.

“In the first half, we couldn’t really develop any chances,” Moriyasu said. “I believe to a certain degree we were playing OK, however, the result was a shame.”

The first half might have been one of the dullest of a tournament that has already seen five 0-0 draws. Neither team had a shot on goal.

Ritsu Doan, who scored one of Japan’s goals in the 2-1 win over Germany, looked the most threatening early with runs down the right side looking to cut in crosses. Costa Rica’s most menacing player was Joel Campbell, trying to use his speed on the left flank.

There was more action in the first two minutes after the break than in the entire first half. Hidemasa Morita tested Navas with a blistering shot in the first minute, and Takuma Asano forced another save a minute later.

Japan, who are appearing in their seventh straight World Cup, have reached the knockout stage on three occasions, losing each time in the round of 16. Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals in Brazil in 2014.