Japan ensured their FIFA U-20 World Cup journey will continue beyond the group stage at Poland 2019 with a goalless draw against Group B winners Italy in sunny Bydgoszcz.
Knowing a point would be enough to secure their passage to knockout football, Japan head coach Masanaga Kageyama’s side played with more urgency than already-qualified Italy, with more possession and shot attempts than Paolo Nicolato’s side. The Italian manager made nine changes from their last game and gave six players their first minutes at this U-20 World Cup, including goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi.
The Atalanta-based keeper came up with the match’s biggest moment when he saved Hiroki Ito’s penalty in the 11th minute. Referee Mustapha Ghorbal awarded the penalty after Kyosuke Tagawa was brought down by Alessandro Buongiorno. Tagawa had to exit the game minutes later after he picked up what looked to be a hamstring injury.
Italy did give Japan a scare in front of goal midway through the second half when Marco Olivieri broke free to create a one-on-one with Japan keeper Tomoya Wakahara, but the Kyoto Sanga custodian displayed his quick reflexes and made the crucial save, which proved to be enough to bring his team the point they needed to book their place in the next round.