Japan pulled off a pair of upsets over European oppositions in the World Cup group stage, and it is one step closer to another in the round of 16.
Daizen Maeda gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the 43rd minute of Monday’s match against Croatia. Japan strung together three passes off a corner kick before sending it into the box, and the ball found Maeda on the right side of the net. The Celtic forward then booted a left-footed shot past Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković for the match’s first goal.
Maeda is making his first World Cup appearance after joining the Japanese national team in 2019. He only had one international goal in his career prior to Monday’s strike.
Japan beat Germany and Spain en route to claiming the top spot in Group E, but it has not been a strong first-half squad. Maeda’s goal gave the country its first halftime lead in its last 10 World Cup matches.
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This is only Japan’s third appearance in the World Cup round of 16, and a win would give the team its first ever quarterfinals berth.