Japan had four yellow cards, Senegal had six.
Overall, Japan committed only 28 fouls in three group matches, among the fewest in the tournament.
They were touted as the favourites to be knocked out of group H first, but all the predictions changed after the Samurai Blue's defeated a 10-man Colombia side 2-1 courtesy of a 3rd minute Shinji Kagawa goal and a 73rd-minute victor from Yuya Osako.
That worked in Japan's favour despite their loss, with Nishino breathing a sigh of relief as they became the only Asian side to progress to the knockout stage after a nail-biting end to Group F. Colombia, meanwhile, ended the day as group winners. The Belgians made nine changes from their previous match while the English switched eight players.
"My decision was to rely on the other match", Nishino said after full-time.
When Bednarek scored, Japan was facing elimination.
With 20 minutes to play, Poland launched a quick counter attack and Robert Lewandowski was handed a chance to kill the game off, but blasted his shot over the bar. In 2002 and 2006, the team had also spurned their chances of qualification for the knockout rounds after two matches, but in both cases managed to win their final group-stage game. "We have to pull together and get our hands dirty". Yep, Senegal have been eliminated because they picked up more yellow cards that the Japanese.
Colombia, which played in the quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil, finished atop the group and is the fourth South American team to advance, joining Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.
Despite farcical scenes in which Japan moved the ball back and forth on halfway while a Polish player was down injured, it paid off as Senegal could not rescue a point, sending the fortunate Samurai Blue through.
Nishino can at least take heart from the fact that his key players will go into the last-16 game in Rostov-on-Don fresh and rested, even if the Belgians can say the same after making nine changes for their win over England.
Poland coach Adam Nawalka said his team proved they were not quitters by winning their first game at a World Cup since they beat Costa Rica in Germany in 2006.