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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia on the Brink After 1-0 Loss to Japan

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Russia became Japan's first-ever World Cup victim as the host won 1-0 at a packed Yokohama stadium on Sunday.

A goal from the hero of Japan's 2-2 draw against Belgium, Junichi Inamoto, gave Japan a deserved first win in the World Cup and left Russia needing to beat Belgium to qualify for the second round.

"The only consolation is that the tournament is going on and we have another game to play against Belgium," said assistant coach Mikhail Gershkovich. "Everything is in our own hands. We win and we go forward."

Whether the uninspired Russia that played against Japan can beat Belgium is another matter.

Despite the crowd of 66,000 roaring "Nippon," neither Japan nor Russia created many chances in a staid first half. Russia was cautious from the start, playing Ruslan Pimenov as the only striker.

Coach Oleg Romantsev, who had said he feared Japan the most of all of Russia's opponents, dropped Vladimir Beschastnykh and brought back the injured Alexei Smertin to bolster the midfield. Midfielder Alexander Mostovoi again missed the game, and Russia lacked inspiration, unable to put more than a couple of passes together and easily giving the ball away as Japan had the better of the first 45 minutes.

Within the first six minutes of the second half, Japan went ahead after Atsushi Yanagisawa split the Russian defense with a one-touch pass in the penalty area to Inamoto who easily knocked the ball past Ruslan Nigmatullin.

Permanent Arsenal reserve Inamoto, whose goal against Belgium has been shown nonstop on Japanese television since that game, can expect similar adulation after the goal that caught the Russian defense sleeping.

Romantsev responded by putting Marat Izmailov, who had run a lot but passed mostly to Japanese players, out of his misery, swapping him for Dmitry Khokhlov and minutes later bringing on Beschastnykh for Smertin.

Beschastnykh should have equalized immediately after pushing the ball past goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi only to shoot into the side netting when it seemed easier to hit the target.

Russia, despite pushing forward in numbers, never looked confident enough to score, especially after Beschastnykh's miss, relying on inaccurate long shots.

Sychyov and Khokhlov revitalized the attack, but the final ball failed again and again with Japan looking more likely to go further ahead. Parma's Hidetoshi Nakata's shots nearly doubled the score when a shot from 30 meters rebounded off the post.

Japan now leads Group H with four points and with its last game against Tunisia is the favorite to top the group. Russia is second with three points but will likely drop to third if Belgium beat Tunisia on Monday as expected. Russia's only hope is to beat Belgium in its final group match on Friday.