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Japan aspires to the round of 16 of the World Cup against Costa Rica

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — How big was Japan’s 2-1 win over Germany in the first round of the World Cup?

Newspapers in Japan used the sumo wrestling term “Daikimboshi” to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler defeats a great champion.

The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 win over mighty South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

Japan were the underdog against four-time champions Germany, but will be heavy favorites in their next Group E match against Costa Rica, where a win could send Japan into the knockout stage with one game to play.

A loss to Costa Rica on Sunday would eliminate them from advancing. Costa Rica faces Germany in their final match and Japan goes against Spain.

Costa Rica is recovering from a 7-0 thrashing against Spain in their opener, and no one knows how the Ticos will respond. With a population of just over 5 million, the small Central American country appears in its sixth World Cup. He reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.

Japan have never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that is the goal this time. This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and they have reached the round of 16 three times, including in Russia in 2018. They lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.

Paraguay eliminated it on penalties in 2010 and lost to Turkey 1-0 in 2002, when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has often talked about going further this time and breaking the “final 16 hex”.

Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals against Germany (both play in the German Bundesliga) to upset Japan. Asano got the game-winner in the 83rd minute, squeezing the ball past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from a very tight angle.

Costa Rica was overwhelmed by Spain with only 28% of possession. They would also face the same problem against Japan, who are capable of holding the ball for long periods and are also a quick counter-attacking threat.

“We couldn’t complete three or four passes,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suárez said of Spain’s loss.

The Ticos will have to do a lot more against Japan.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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