Japan have secured their place in the knockout stage of the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland, progressing from Group B in second place.
The Samurai Blues were joined in the group stage by Italy, Ecuador and Mexico, after being placed in Pot 4 for the draw. However, the East Asian giants outdid expectations by securing their place in the knockout stage alongside Italy.
Their campaign began with a 1-1 draw against Ecuador, as the side were forced to battle from behind after an unfortunate own goal from a set-piece. Japan were kept in the game by a brilliant penalty save from goalkeeper Tomoya Wakahara, and eventually found the equalizer courtesy of Kota Yamada.
The side then picked up their first win of the competition, registering an impressive 3-0 victory over Mexico to put themselves in pole position to progress to the next round.
Japan’s final game was against group leaders Italy, where they had to avoid defeat to guarantee their progression. Despite controlling 57% of possession and registering 19 shots compared to the European side’s 12, the two teams played out a goalless stalemate which saw Japan progress in second place.
In the knockout stage, Japan will face the runners-up of Group F, which contains Argentina, Portugal, South Africa and fellow Asian side South Korea.