Japan escaped from Victoria's Royal Athletic Park with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Wednesday despite failing to impose themselves on the Group F contest. With six points from two games the Japanese are now assured of a place in the round of sixteen with a group game still to play.
A giveaway in the Tico midfield in the 68th minute left Tsukasa Umesaki free on the left side of the box, and the midfielder picked out Atomu Tanaka to slot home from point blank range. Before that, the match had been an evenly contested affair, with the poor-finishing Central Americans even shading it a bit. Their most glaring miss came in the 16th minute as Luis Perez put it wide when he should have scored from just five metres out and only the goalkeeper to beat. And, in second half extra time, Japanese keeper Akihiro Hayashi did his part by saving Esteban Rodriguez' firm header.
The Asians, who brushed aside Scotland 3-1 in their opener, are top of the group with six points, assured of a place in the knockout stages and free to coast in their final group game against Nigeria. Brave Costa Rica still have slim hopes of scraping out of the group, but will need a result against the Scots in their last group game on Saturday and hope other results go their way.