Keysher Fuller’s goal made the difference between the two teams.
Costa Rica beat Japan 1-0 to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the next round of the World Cup.
Luis Fernando Suarez’s men spent most of Sunday’s game on the back foot but came on top in the 81st minute with right-back Keysher Fuller’s stunning curler their first and only shot on target.
Japan, who entered the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium full of confidence after their win over Germany, lacked the cutting edge to break down a resolute Costa Rican defence.
The game seemed deadlocked but burst into life after Fuller’s late goal.
The result throws Group E wide open. Costa Rica, who lost their opening match 0-7 against Spain, are remarkably still in the mix to qualify for the next round.
A win on Sunday would have secured Japan’s place in the round of 16, but they will now need a result in their final game against Spain to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
Japan made five changes to the team that shocked Germany in their opening game as coach Hajime Moriyasu made full use of his 26-man squad.
In temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Japan immediately went on the attack, winning a corner within 30 seconds to signal their intent.
Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez has resisted making sweeping changes to the team that was hammered by Spain, dropping teenage winger Jewison Bennette and defender Carlos Martinez to the bench.
Gerson Torres and 34-year-old centre-back Kendall Waston took their place in an aging XI that featured four players from the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
But Japan’s early promise melted in the Doha sun and the first shot on goal – a tame effort that sailed high and wide – did not come until 10 minutes from the break through Costa Rica’s 30-year-old Joel Campbell.
Joel Campbell has won 15 duels against Japan, the most by a player in a single match at the 2022 World Cup.
— Squawka (@Squawka) November 27, 2022
A dismal first half ended with “Los Ticos” having more of the ball but neither side getting a shot on target.
Moriyasu had seen enough and made a double change at the break, one of them introducing Bundesliga-based striker Takuma Asano, who scored the winner against the Germans.
The Blue Samurai were immediately more cutting and midfielder Hidemasa Morita made the first proper save of the game within seconds of the restart with a powerful strike.
Moriyasu threw Brighton striker Kaoru Mitoma for a defender just after the hour mark as Japan chased down the win that would put them on the brink of the last 16.
It was all Japan as the game went into the final 20 minutes in front of 41,000 spectators.
Substitute Junya Ito appeared to have spun loose and was closing in on goal, only for Costa Rica defender Francisco Calvo to cynically pull him back on the edge of the box and earn a yellow card that easily led to red could have been
Costa Rica did nothing as an attacking force for most of the game, but nine minutes from normal time they stole it when Fuller’s shot took a deflection and looped in.