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28th Jun 2018

Japan reach knockout stages on ‘fair play’ and plenty are pointing out the irony

'Japan, going through on fair play, with the most unsportsmanlike play of the whole tournament'

Simon Lloyd

Fair play to Japan… at least in theory

It is they that will kick on to the knockout stages of the World Cup, despite finishing their group with an identical points and goals tally to Senegal, who’ll be on a plane home in the next 48 hours.

Japan lost their final game of the tournament to already-eliminated Poland, although a late winner for Colombia over Senegal ensured the Asian nation progressed on the basis that they had picked up fewer yellow cards than Senegal over the course of the tournament.

Japan went through after Senegal conceded a late goal to Colombia

Knowing that they were poised to progress, Japan, seemingly having secured some kind of agreement with the Polish team, spent the final minutes of the game passing amongst themselves under absolutely no pressure at all from their opponents. It was a risk, but one that paid off. Senegal couldn’t find an equaliser against Colombia, and so were dumped out of the competition.

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on many of those watching. Although Japan didn’t technically break any rules, the way in which they quite deliberately made no attempt to change the result of the game didn’t seem very ‘fair’ for a team going through on the grounds of fair play…