Spain 0 Japan 1
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2012
A shock but not an undeserved result for the Japanese
The first chance of the game fell to the Japanese in the first minute. A floated ball into the penalty area found an unmarked Kensuke Nagai on the left who could only brush the ball in the general direction of David de Gea in the Spanish goal. However, Spain were not about to just sit back. They were quick to move into their quick passing style with the ball whizzing about the 18 metre line before Rodrigo fired in a shot which went the wrong side of the left hand post. Kensuke Nagai on the left looked to be able to trouble the Spanish defence at will in the early stages and double marking appeared to be the order of the day to nullify the threat from that dangerman. Many would have thought ahead of the game that Spain would be in the ascendancy during most of the game. Well, not so in the first twenty minutes. Japan were more than able and willing to trouble their illustrious opponents while coping with the attacks on their goal. The speed of movement from the Japanese was at times breathtaking but so far without reward. Unselfish running from all areas of the side was in evidence as they interchanged position while maintaining their 4-4-2 formation. The Spanish also had a turn of speed demonstrated as Martin Montoya drove forward before feeding the ball to Mata whose stinging shot was parried by Shuichi Gonda in goal for a corner which came to nothing. In the 34th minute Japan took the lead. A corner on the right was lofted into the 5 metre box by Takahiro Ohgihara who found Otsu Yuki without close markers and he slotted the ball home. The lead was nearly doubled when Alvaro Dominguez in saving a corner inadvertently fired the ball too close to Hiroshi Kiyotake as he slipped in to steak the ball from David de Gea’s waiting arms. Kiyotake clear the keeper and his pass across goal just never made it into the net. A last man tackle ended up with Spain down to ten men in the 41st minute Keigo Higashi was driving into the box chasing the ball looking for a non on one with de Gea while Inigo Martinez was all over him like a rash. The forward went down and the defender went off. The resultant freekick just outside the box did not pbring any additional punishment to the Spanish side who will have to reorganise. Lucky for them they have the half-time break to hear how coach Luis Milla wants they to come back and win the game.
Half-time: Spain 0 Japan 1
First half stats had procession at 67/33 to Spain but if you don’t score when you have the ball, you can live to regret it. Second half and changes were made in the early stages as goal-scorer Yuki Otsu went off to be replaced by Manabu Saito. The Japanese were playing with real confidence and they nearly scored a second goal when Keigo Higashi tried to pass the ball into the top right hand corner of the net only to see David de Gea get a strong hand to it and put it out for a corner. Japan were pulling Spain apart with the space provided by the extra man advantage and speed of running.Spain were having to take chances to chase the game which left spaces at the back which were nearly exploited in the 58th minute as Kersuke Nagai once again ran onto a through ball from Hiroshi Kiyotake on the left but his shot evaded de Gea but also the right hand post. A minute later it was Hiroshi Kiyotake turn to shave the same post as his effort went wide. The Kobi drum beat rarely subsided as Japan maintained a high level of pressure on Spain. The Spanish were not downhearted and they increased their work rate and Japan were often under sustained periods of pressure. It is the type of game hat Japan have to kill off with another goal or else Spain will be back in there with a goal of their own. The intricacies of the Japanese passing in and close to the box was a delight to see but the goal just did not come as we reached the 75 minute mark. Both sides were living dangerously with their short passing near the penalty box and it may just be a slip that changes the game. Can Japan deliver the famous victory their play deserved? As the minutes ticked away you had the feeling that may just do that but they really need another goal to demoralise their opponents. That man Kensuke Nagai nearly provided the goal that would kill the Spanish off as he stole the ball off a defender’s toe and drove towards the box but his firm shot was parried away by de Gea. I don’t know what they feed him to maintain his levels of energy but he just never stopped running the whole game. And it was not futile running, he knew where the goal was and was direct in his intentions. The Japan attack just kept on doing just that as the additional time for four minutes ticked away. Time and time again they had the extra man running in to collect the ball and fire in on goal but their luck ended there as the ball would just not cross the line to add lustre to their performance. They will not care as they picked up three points and head their group.
Spain: David de Gea, Alvaro Dominguez, Javier Martinez, Inigo Martinez, Jordi Alba, Lopez Adrian (Ander Herrera 56 mins), Rodrigo, Juan Mata, Koke (CristianTello 81 mins), Martin Montoya, Isco (Oriol Romeu 63 mins)
Subs not used: Cesar Azpilicueta, Iker Muniain, Alberto Botia, Diego Marino
Japan: Shuichi Gonda, Yuhei Tokunaga, Takahiro Ohgihara (Kazuya Yamamura 86 mins), Hiroki Sakai (Gotoku Sakai 74 mins), Maya Yoshida, Otsu Yuki, Keigo Higashi, Kensuke Nagai (Manabu Saito 48 mins), Daisuke Suzuki, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Kiyotake
Subs not used: Taisuke Muramatsu, , Kenyu Sugimoto, Takashi Usami, Shunsuke Ando