Match ends, Japan 0, Poland 1.
World Cup: Japan reach last 16 despite 1-0 defeat by Poland
Japan reached the last 16 of the World Cup by having a better disciplinary record than Senegal - after losing to Poland in their final Group H game.
The match finished in farcical fashion, with both sides happy to play the ball around at the back for much of the final quarter.
Akira Nishino's side finished with the same number of points, goals scored and goals conceded as Senegal, but were shown only four yellow cards during the group stage to the African side's six.
"We did not go for victory but we just relied on the other match," said Nishino.
"That was slightly regrettable but I suppose at that point I didn't have any other plans.
"I am really not happy about how we played but we wanted to go through to the round of 16 and we have, and that is the only salvation that I get."
Colombia's 1-0 win over Senegal meant the South American team topped the group ahead of Japan, with those sides facing England and Belgium respectively in the last 16.
Southampton defender Jan Bednarek's well-taken volley following Rafal Kurzawa's free-kick won the match for Poland, who were already eliminated.
Indeed Japan substitute Makoto Hasebe, who came on with eight minutes remaining, made a 'card' gesture to his team-mates to make it clear they were through as it stood.
Nishino said he passed on instructions to the team to take no risks and collect no yellow cards when he sent Hasebe on.
"What if we conceded another goal and it was 2-0?" he said. "We went through. Therefore perhaps it was the right decision."
Japan happy to play out time
Japan topped the group going into the final round of games, needing just a point to be assured of a place in the knockout stage for only the third time after 2002, when they were co-hosts, and 2010.
They were heading out when Bednarek scored, and Southampton's Maya Yoshida headed just wide on 72 minutes as they pushed for an equaliser.
But two minutes later they were given a reprieve by Colombia defender Yerry Mina's thumping header in the group's other game.
As the news filtered through to the Volgograd Arena, both teams were content to sit back.
It was a risky strategy for Japan - a second goal for Poland or a Senegal equaliser would have eliminated them - but it ultimately paid off.
'Farcical and embarrassing'
With their game finishing a couple of minutes before Colombia's victory was confirmed, the Japan players initially waited anxiously around the pitch, before celebrating wildly in front of their supporters.
But there was widespread criticism for the manner in which they had reached the last 16.
"It was a farce, an absolute farce," said BBC co-commentator Mark Lawrenson. "There has to be a better way of settling the table in the World Cup than bookings."
Former Everton midfielder Leon Osman said on BBC Two: "That is embarrassing - the way the two teams went about the final 10 minutes is everything we do not want to see in a World Cup. It turned into a farce."
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill added: "It takes you back to World Cups in 1982 and 1986, when we saw games like that. It is mind-boggling for me as a coach to leave your whole destiny in the hands of another game, and do it for so long.
"I had developed a bit of a soft spot for Japan, but I hope they get battered in the next round."
What you said
Simon: That was one of the most surreal 10 minutes of football I've ever seen... Literally neither team interested in doing anything!
Wayne: Fair play is a really stupid way to decide qualification, must be a better way than this?
David: How about a penalty shootout on the day off? Free entry for fans.
Abdulateef: I see nothing wrong with Japan qualifying on fair play, the rules are there and they are through because of it.
Poland go out on high
By losing their opening two group games, Poland became the first European side to exit the tournament, and they have now exited at the first hurdle in three successive appearances.
They rarely threatened in their first two matches, with star striker Robert Lewandowski - who scored 16 goals in qualifying - largely isolated.
The Bayern Munich man did have his best chance to score against Japan - but scooped a shot over from 10 yards out.
Winger Kamil Grosicki forced Eiji Kawashima into a smart save with a header, and Tomoaki Mikono almost diverted a cross into his own net late on.
But Bednarek's goal was enough to give the Poles victory, though it was not enough to lift them off the bottom of the group.
Set-piece specialists - the stats
- Poland beat Japan for the first time, after losing 5-0 in February 1996 and 2-0 in March 2002.
- Japan have failed to score in five of their past six World Cup games against European opponents (W1 D2 L3) - their only goals coming in a 3-1 victory over Denmark in 2010.
- Poland have won each of their 14 games in which they have scored first in World Cup finals.
- Japan have conceded in four successive World Cup games for the first time since their first four games across 1998 and 2002.
- Poland have finished bottom of the group in a World Cup for the first time since 2002.
- They have kept a clean sheet at the World Cup for the first time since winning 1-0 against Portugal in 1986.
- The Poles won their first ever World Cup game against an Asian opponent after losing 2-0 in the group stages against South Korea in 2002.
- Bednarek's goal for Poland was their fifth consecutive goal from a set-piece situation in the World Cup.
- 19H Sakai
- 20MakinoBooked at 66mins
- 21G Sakai
- 11UsamiSubstituted forInuiat 65'minutes
- 13MutoSubstituted forHasebeat 82'minutes
- 9OkazakiSubstituted forOsakoat 47'minutes
- 19ZielinskiSubstituted forTeodorczykat 79'minutes
- 21KurzawaSubstituted forPeszkoat 80'minutes
- Janny Sikazwe
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Japan 0, Poland 1.
Corner, Poland. Conceded by Yuya Osako.
Attempt blocked. Artur Jedrzejczyk (Poland) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kamil Grosicki with a cross.
Substitution, Japan. Makoto Hasebe replaces Yoshinori Muto.
Corner, Poland. Conceded by Eiji Kawashima.
Substitution, Poland. Slawomir Peszko replaces Rafal Kurzawa.
Substitution, Poland. Lukasz Teodorczyk replaces Piotr Zielinski.
Attempt missed. Kamil Glik (Poland) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Kamil Grosicki with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Poland. Conceded by Tomoaki Makino.
Foul by Hotaru Yamaguchi (Japan).
Jacek Goralski (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Kamil Grosicki following a fast break.
Attempt missed. Maya Yoshida (Japan) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Gaku Shibasaki with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Japan. Conceded by Bartosz Bereszynski.
Foul by Gaku Shibasaki (Japan).
Bartosz Bereszynski (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Kamil Grosicki (Poland) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Artur Jedrzejczyk.
Yuya Osako (Japan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Artur Jedrzejczyk (Poland).
Tomoaki Makino (Japan) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Tomoaki Makino (Japan).
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Japan. Takashi Inui replaces Takashi Usami.
Offside, Japan. Yuya Osako tries a through ball, but Hiroki Sakai is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Piotr Zielinski (Poland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Robert Lewandowski.
Foul by Yuya Osako (Japan).
Kamil Glik (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Takashi Usami (Japan) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Goal! Japan 0, Poland 1. Jan Bednarek (Poland) right footed shot from very close range to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Rafal Kurzawa following a set piece situation.
Rafal Kurzawa (Poland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Hotaru Yamaguchi (Japan).
Attempt missed. Tomoaki Makino (Japan) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left following a corner.
Attempt missed. Yoshinori Muto (Japan) with an attempt from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Gaku Shibasaki with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Japan. Conceded by Kamil Glik.
Attempt blocked. Takashi Usami (Japan) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Yuya Osako.
Foul by Bartosz Bereszynski (Poland).
Yuya Osako (Japan) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Bartosz Bereszynski (Poland).
Takashi Usami (Japan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.