World Cup: Keysher Fuller late winner makes Group E wide open

Costa Rica ignited their World Cup campaign with a smash-and-grab 1-0 win over Japan at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

Luis Fernando Suarez’s men prioritised defensive solidity after their 7-0 humbling at the hands of Spain in their opening match and kept their opponents at bay sufficiently throughout, as the early-afternoon temperature exceeded 30 degrees.

But Costa Rica made Japan pay for their failure to capitalise on their attacking superiority when Keysher Fuller curled a shot over Shuichi Gonda (81) with the team’s first shot on target in the tournament.

The late winner blew Group E wide open, with Costa Rica, Japan and Spain – who face Germany later this evening – all on three points at this stage.

Japan looked buoyant after their shock win over Germany last time out and flew out of the blocks in an attempt to put Costa Rica immediately on the back foot. They were soon controlling the tempo of the game.

Japan’s Ritsu Doan sent a teasing ball across the box from the right, which needed just one touch to find the back of the net, while at the other end, ex-Arsenal forward Joel Campbell’s improvised shot cleared the crossbar by a good few feet.

Given the lack of attacking endeavour, the organisation of the Costa Rican defence – marshalled by Kendall Waston – was perhaps the highlight of a poor first half.

Hajime Moriyasu changed the shape of his side at the break, moving to a back three in an attempt to promote creativity and it worked initially, with half-time sub Takuma Asano forcing a save with his first touch.

The Japanese once again began to dominate, but the Sunday League-like feel of the game could not be shaken. Their passing grew less accurate, while crosses and long balls were often wildly overcooked and wasted.

And then came the decisive moment. Hidemasa Morita gave the ball away cheaply, with Yeltsin Tejeda setting up Fuller to curl over Gonda. The ‘keeper was positioned well off his line and, even though he got fingertips to the shot, he could not stop it looping into the net.

Keylor Navas then made two saves of his own in the dying embers, first from Daichi Kamada and then Asano, but fortune was not on Japan’s side