This photo kind of says it all. Things were surprisingly promising at the half, knotted up at one goal apiece thanks to a stoppage time equalizer by Okazaki Shinji, but then Colombia brought out the steamroller.
The match was another story of Japan’s impressive technical proficiency being nullified by apparent indecision in the box and physical domination by a larger opponent. Still, Blue Samurai fought hard and with heart.
This concludes RABUJOI’s very brief coverage of Japan at the 2014 World Cup.
(Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel/Howler Magazine)
Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.
After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.
“自宅行く勝つか” is as close as we (with the help of Google) could get to saying “Win or go home”, which constitutes Japan’s remaining choices.
Beat Greece, and they’re still in Group C contention. Lose, and they’ll be eliminated (and we’ll only have one more post here commiserating their quick exit from the tournament, for those of you who don’t care about soccer).
The match starts at 6PM Eastern, or 7AM in Tokyo. Blue Samurai will be looking to play more aggressively, having only managed one goal by Honda Keisuke against Ivory Coast, which just fell to Group C leader Colombia 2-1.
Photo by Javier Soriano / AFP Photo
At the end of a football-packed day in which Greece fell to Colombia in the first Group C match, Japan got an early goal by Honda to take a 1-0 lead that they couldn’t quite hold, as Ivory Coast equalized and took over the lead in a second half offensive burst in which both goals were scored within 100 seconds, the fastest interval of the tournament so far.
Japanese players and fans alike wore their hearts on their sleeves, as one should at such an event: alternating between the rapt elation of the goal and the deflated dejection of ultimately falling short of a victory.
Now Japan looks to even their record and gain some points against Greece on 19 June. Greece looked physically and mentally up to the task but seemed to lack the creativity to overcome Colombia’s set pieces. We’ll see if Blue Samurai can keep their hopes of advancing alive in what is still an open Group.
Photos, clockwise from top left, by Jamie Squire, Mark Kolbe, Jamie Squire, and Keith Tsuji, Getty Images.
A non-anime note: at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we’ll be rooting for Japan in Group C, because…er…why not? It’s arguably the most wide-open group in the cup. They’ll face their first test against Côte d’Ivoire in Recife tonight. Ganbatte, Samurai Blue!
Hearty congratulations are in order this morning, as the Japan women’s national football team (Nadeshiko) won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, becoming the first Asian team to do so. If it wasn’t in the cards for the U.S.A. to win this year, I’m glad it was Japan who beat us. The ladies deserved it. The nation needed it. The men’s team will have their chance in Brazil in 2014 (a USA-Japan final is unlikely, but not impossible!), but for now, savor the victory, Japan!