FULL OF HOPE COSTA RICA turned comeback kings as they stunned Japan with a winner from their first shot on target in the 2022 World Cup.
Down and out with their bags half packed following their 7-0 hammering at the hands of Spain this was some response.
Keysher Fuller curled in to grab Costa Rica’s winner.
Goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda could only tip the ball into the net.
The goal gives Costa Rica hope of going through.
Japan, shock winners over Germany and clear favourites ahead of the game, dominated most of it.
But then on 81 minutes and totally against the run of play Keysher Fuller curled a shot home and with it blew Group E open again.
The stunning end was at odds with what had come before.
The first half had to be one of the dullest halves in World Cup history.
Only the noise of Japan fans banging drums managed to keep those unfortunate enough to be in the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium awake.
Costa Rica were happy just to sit back with five defenders and two defensive midfielders and soak up what little pressure Japan seemed able to summon.
After their shock victory over Germany much was expected.
But for Japan fans, think Three Lions fans watching England vs USA after the thrilling win over Iran.
They did threaten when Ritsu Doan broke down the right and fizzed a cross into the six yard box, but nobody was there.
Then when Yuki Soma charged forward and sent a pass into the area for the unmarked Daichi Kamada there was a little roar of anticipation.
That was until the ball ran under Kamada’s foot.
The half-time announcer sounded a little embarrassed as he introduced the half-time ‘highlights’.
Then when the howling pair on the microphones tried to get the crowd going with chants at the break they were greeted with silence.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu was clearly unhappy with what he had seen in the first period as he made two changes at the break and more during the second half.
There was certainly a greater urgency about the Japan side from the whistle to commence the second 45 minutes, or however long a half takes now.
Within seconds Hidemase Morita had charged to the edge of the area, evaded two defenders with a duck of his left shoulder and shot on goal with Keylor Navas making rather a lot of the save.
Wataru Endo was next up with a shot blocked by the outstretched leg of Celso Borges.
Then Yuki Soma was suddenly jet-heeled as he stormed down the left wing, cut inside but sent a shot flying over the far angle.
Costa Rica just couldn’t get out of their half.
Then would you believe it they started to press a bit up field and when Japan were too casual trying to play out, Costa Rica pounced.
Yetsin Dejeda slid the ball into Fuller and his curling shot slid through the fingertips of Shuichi Gonda and found the far side of the goal.
Cue absolute pandemonium on the pitch and in the stands.
It was as much shock as anything else.
Japan came desperately close to equalising when Kaoru Mitoma made it to the byline and pulled a cross back.
Daichi Kamada shot first time but Navas, going the wrong way, stuck out a leg and saved.
Victory for Costa Rica.
Keylor Navas helped keep the clean sheet in the closing seconds.
Japan were close to putting one foot in the last 16.
Englishman Michael Oliver was in charge of the game