A lively Japan edged past Jamaica to secure a 1-0 victory in their Group B encounter at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey. After a goalless first half, Japan enlisted the services of substitute Masaya Matsumoto, who scored the lone goal of the match. The three points may prove vital in Japan’s attempt to emerge from the group stage for just the second time in their history at the tournament, as Argentina fell to France in the group’s earlier match.

While each team was vying for a strong start to their World Cup campaign, it was Japan who took early control of the match. The Samurai Blue began to search for a first-half breakthrough playing a short passing game and plenty of movement off the ball. Despite their efforts, and sans young starlet Takumi Minamino, Japan were unable to pose any real threat to Jamaica’s net.

Jamaica were hushed by the dynamic Japanese, and while they attempted to penetrate through the penalty area, a well organised Japanese defence kept them at bay. Having little luck from close range, the Reggae Boyz hammered a few long-range shots with Romario Williams’ effort in the 19th minute hitting off the post. And just two minutes later Fumiya Hayakawa retaliated at the other end, but his shot was collected with ease by goalkeeper Nico Campbell.

Neither side were able to break the deadlock before the interval, and with each still trying to find success on the frontline, both Japan and Jamaica made changes to their line-up to start the second half. One of which paid off for Japan, as forward Matsumoto immediately made his mark on the match, combining with Sei Muroya before evading Campbell with a precise effort in the 61st minute. And, looking to add another to Japan’s tally, Matsumoto just missed the target with a close-range volley a minute later.

Japan denied Jamaica any real opportunities in the second half, but Williams again proved to have the chance of the half for the Reggae Boyz. The forward’s shot was handled, though, by Kosuke Nakamura. Japan held on to to their slender lead for the remainder of the match, giving the Jamaicans little time with the ball as they dominated possession.

The result moved Japan level on three points with France, who they will meet in their next group match in Monterrey on 21 June, while Jamaica will face Argentina with each hoping to secure their first points of the campaign.