JAPAN coach Akira Nishino defended his negative tactics as his side qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup by virtue of their superior fair play record despite losing 1-0 to Poland.
Poland's Robert Lewandowski misses a chance to score.
Japan reached the knockout stage for the third time in their history but when Jan Bednarek scored his first global goal in the 59th minute for the already eliminated Poland, the score between Colombia and Senegal stood at 0-0, meaning the last team left from Asia were heading home.
Senegal and Japan finished level on points, goal differential and goals scored, and they drew in their head-to-head meeting.
Their advance, though, came only after a risky gamble paid off. However, Colombia's goal in the 74th minute of the other group match meant Japan was in second place and would advance.
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But the three-time Major victor responded with a tap-in eagle at the par-five sixth, putting his second shot inches from the cup. His caddie tried to hand him a putter after the shot and Thomas shook him off.
"I decided that I was going to rely on the other match's result", he told reporters.
"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". It was not intentional. Shortly after the goal, Japan had sent too many men forward, and Poland snapped on the counter-attack.
Nishino, who took over in April after former coach Vahid Halilhodzic was sacked, stressed he wanted his squad to play a freer, more attacking style in the last 16 against England or Belgium.
If they succeed they will be the first Asian team to reach the second stage of the tournament since they did so in 2010 in South Africa. Japan passed the ball between themselves in their own half while Poland stood off.
Nishino was aware that with Senegal also losing 1-0 to Colombia, Japan were the ones who would go through to the last 16 along with Colombia.
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Federation Internationale de Football Association said it had no plans to change its fair play criteria. Somehow, Argentina are through to the last-16 of the World Cup.
Japan needed just a point to ensure qualification for the knockout rounds but were undone by a Jan Bednarek header in the 59th minute at the Volgograd Stadium.
The final whistle brought an end to a weird afternoon which began with Japan coach Akira Nishino making six changes despite knowing his side's qualification was far from certain.
The match finished in farcical fashion, with both sides happy to play the ball around at the back for much of the final quarter.
Japan at least drew encouragement from their first sight of goal and Yoshinori Muto's drive forced Lukasz Fabianski to parry, before the goalkeeper smothered a tame Gotoku Sakai effort. The Colombians appeared as to regain form with a 3-0 victory over Poland.
Poland came into this World Cup ranked eighth in the world and with high hopes, but they will make the short plane ride back to Warsaw after Thursday's match having again not reached the knockout phase, something they haven't achieved since 1986.
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