Japan have beaten Libya 4-2 but been pipped to second spot in Group C by Portugal, who advance directly to the last 16 by virtue of a superior goal difference. The Asian champions, however, went on to advance as one of the best third-placed teams after the results in the later matches went their way.
Roared on by a boisterous band of fans at the Huamark Indoor Stadium, Japan dominated the first half and, after several near misses, took a deserved lead on 18 minutes when Kotaro Inaba's deflected strike wrong-footed goalkeeper Yousef Bensaed.
Inaba would go on to play a vital role, but his next contribution was an unfortunate one as he provided a small but telling touch that enabled Mohamed Rahoma’s free-kick to fly past Kawara into the top left-hand corner. The 29-year-old quickly made amends in the second half though, robbing Bader Hasan and playing in Shota Hoshi to re-establish Japan’s lead with a delicate chipped finish.
That was after 25 minutes, and a minute later Inaba added to his goal and assist with another strike of his own, sticking out a leg to divert Yusuke Komiyama’s low left-foot shot beyond the helpless Bensaed. Japan were going for goals at this stage - needing a winning margin of five or greater to be assured of a place in the next round - and they edged closer with eight minutes remaining when Nobuya Osodu cut in from the left to fire low into the net.
However, Rahoma struck again from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining to leave Miguel Rodrigo's side waiting on later results before being able to toast their progression.
“I told my players that, before worrying about goal difference, we needed to win the game. We did not play to our best level because of the responsibility on our shoulders, and because of nervousness. Nevertheless, we got the job done," Miguel Rodrigo, Japan coach.
“We were aware that we were coming here to gain experience. Keep in mind that, for different reasons, we formed this team in the space of 40 days. This is a long process and, if these lessons are learned, Libya can keep growing," Pablo Prieto, Libya coach.