AL RAYYAN, Qatar: They had left it late to shock fancied Germany but it was Japan who were given a taste of their own medicine on Sunday (Nov 27).
A late goal from Keysher Fuller - Costa Rica’s first shot on target at the World Cup - saw them take a 1-0 victory in a tepid game of football played under the baking afternoon sun at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
The result blows the group wide open with Japan, Costa Rica and Spain now on three points. Germany will face Spain in Sunday’s late kickoff.
Japan will next take on Spain on Thursday, while Costa Rica will play Germany.
After the euphoria of their upset against Germany, the Japan team looked disjointed in a first half where neither side registered a shot on target.
Head coach Hajime Moriyasu made five changes from the side that stunned the Germans 2-1, with Miki Yamane, Hidemasa Morita, Ritsu Doan, Yuki Soma, and Ayase Ueda coming in for Hiroki Sakai, Ao Tanaka, Takefusa Kubo, Junya Ito and Daizen Maeda.
But it was a poor Japanese performance in the first 45 minutes.
While the Samurai Blue tried to be patient in possession in order to unlock their opponents’ defence, they were more ponderous than penetrative.
And the closest they would come in the first 20 minutes was a delicious Doan cross which nobody was on the end of.
Costa Rica, who were thumped 7-0 by Spain in their World Cup opener, grew in confidence as the half wore on but struggled to make attacking inroads.
Moriyasu had said before the tournament that the goal for Japan was to get beyond the last 16.
Japan reached the knockout stages at the 2018 World Cup, but were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by Belgium after going 2-0 up, only to lose 3-2.
In a second half markedly better than the first, Japan sprang free early on and Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was forced into his first save of the game by Morita.
Then it was Wataru Endo with a low effort which was blocked bravely.
As Costa Rica tried to get more men on the ball, a Soma run would see him cut in from the left but slice a shot over.
Japan tried to press on and Endo was hacked just outside the box in the 63rd min. Soma’s free kick, however, was nowhere close to troubling Navas.
Moriyasu’s men would waste another chance as Junya Ito was hauled down outside the box, only for the resulting free kick to be hammered right into the wall.
Then came the moment of magic for the Los Ticos in the 81st minute as Fuller pounced on poor defending to curl past the despairing dive of Shuichi Gonda.
The Los Ticos fans roared with joy, while Japan's vociferous supporters were stunned into silence.
Once again, just as they started the tournament, Japan have it all to do at the World Cup.