Japan has advanced from Group H into the round of 16 phase of the World Cup on Thursday notwithstanding losing 1-0 to Poland, thanks to their lower tally of yellow cards than Senegal.
Senegal were eliminated after their 1-0 defeat by Colombia even though they finished level with Japan on points, goal difference and goals scored.
The Samurai Blue, who had needed only a draw to qualify from Group H, went behind in the 59th minute when Poland’s Rafal Kurzawa floated a free kick to the far post and an unmarked Jan Bednarek scored from close range.
Until then, Japan had looked content to contain Poland in stifling heat in Volgograd and they left in-form midfielder Takashi Inui on the bench until they were chasing an equalizer.
Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski missed a good opportunity to double the lead in the 74th minute, which means he has failed to score in all three matches he played at the World Cup in Russia.
The match finished in farcical circumstances with both Japan and Poland happy with the outcome and content to play keep-ball.
Japan will play meet winners of Group G which is England or Belgium, who will be playing later Thursday in the next round.
This is the third time Japan will reach the round of 16 after 2002 World Cup the country hosted with South Korea and the 2010 championship in South Africa.