World Cup: Japan 0 Poland 1 - 5 things you need to know

Japan's Eiji Kawashima makes a save at the Volgograd Arena, Volgograd, Russia, on June 28, 2018.
Japan's Eiji Kawashima makes a save at the Volgograd Arena, Volgograd, Russia, on June 28, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

Group H drew to a close and Japan continue to fly the flag for Asia as the continent's lone survivor at this World Cup. But the Samurai Blue go through to the last 16 under unusual circumstances as they lost 0-1 to Poland and finish second in Group H based on the tie-breaker rules. Japan have a better disciplinary record than Senegal and for the first time at the World Cup, the qualifying result is determined by Fair Play.

1. Goal

Poland (Jan Bednarek 59th minute)

2. The wow moment

In a match short of exciting goal-mouth action, it was left to a defender to provide the only goal. Southampton defender Bednarek was given time and space as Rafal Kurzawa floated a free-kick in and he volleyed home with the aplomb of a centre-forward.

3. The talking point

Fifa's tie-breaker rules can be mind boggling for football fans the world over. Not only would one need to do mental gymnastics for the arithmetic of goal difference, you now need a magnifying glass to read the fine print of the tournament regulations. Japan have a similar record to Senegal but go through on Fair Play after getting -4 points in the disciplinary stakes compared to Senegal's -6. While the Japanese rejoice, squeezing through by the tightest of margins, the Senegalese will not be happy to say the least.

4. The star

Fans were seen staring at their mobile phones at Volgograd as they tried to work out the qualifying permutations. While it is ideal to settle the results on the football field through quality football skills, it was the suits at Fifa who sent Senegal packing and Japan through by writing up the rule book.

The Fair Play rule is supposed to encourage, well, fair play. But in the end, with news of Senegal losing to Colombia filtering through, the Samurai Blue ran down the clock by stroking the ball around and Poland were complicit by not chasing it.

5. What the result means

Japan lost but won in the end, going to the last 16 to meet either Belgium or England. Poland won the battle but lost the war and will go home. Senegal lost against Colombia and lost their last 16 place due to a technicality. Fifa is the big winner on a day its rule book was triumphant.