Honda Drives Japan Past 'Indomitable Lions'
June 14, 2010
Eight years to the day after recording their last victory in a FIFA World Cup Game which incidentally was against another African team – Tunisia - Japan managed to cause a huge upset by defeating African giants Cameroon 1-0 during the second game in Group D at the 2010 FIFA World Cup on Monday.
It took a single goal from Keisuke Honda in the 39th minute to see the Indomitable Lions off at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein (Mangaung).
Cameroon’s Stephen Mbia was unfortunate not to have found an equalizer in the 85th minute when his powerful right foot drive hit the Japanese cross bar, and it took a superb goal line stop by Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to prevent Eyong Enoh from finding an injury time leveller for Cameroon.
In the late afternoon sunshine it took some time for either team to make head way goal wards, the first goal scoring opportunity came the way of Cameroon in the eighth minute when Webo picked up a through-ball down the right.
He moved quickly with the ball before squaring it towards Choupo-Moting stationed inside the Japan six yard area. He collected the ball and as he turned to shoot towards goal he lost control and Nagamoto hoisted the ball clear up field.
Japanese defender Yuchi Komano fouled Choupo-Moting on the left touch line which handed Cameroon a free kick in the 11th minute and Assou Ekotto swung it towards the back post. The flight of the ball deceived Japan keeper Kawashima who had to be bailed out by Nakazawa who headed the ball away from Choupo-Moting.
Both teams seemed to push the ball around well but were initially unable to breach each other’s defences for a long time in the game. That was until the 37th minute when, in the space of two minutes, both ends of the field saw action.
First up Cameroon were on the offensive and Ekotto’s throw-in from the left was collected by Choupo-Moting who pushed it to his right towards Enoh, who drove the ball towards goal from the edge of the 18 yard area. His effort had Japan goalkeeper Kawashima diving to stop the ball.
On 39 minutes Japan managed to get beyond Cameroon’s defence for the first time it was always going to be a case of when the ‘Indomitable Lions’ were going to slip up at the back as Japan were having difficulty breaking them down.
After selling Ekotto a dummy Daisuke Matsui sent a looping cross from the right to the far post where confusion in the Cameroon defence saw a mix up between Mbia and Bassong. Bassong allowed the ball to fall to Honda who side footed the ball coolly past Souleymanou to put Japan into an unexpected lead six minutes before half time.
Samuel Eto’o looked determined to bring Cameroon level early on in the second half and it was his tenacious work which saw him fight off the challenges of Abe and Okubo on the right by line before squaring the ball to Choupo-Moting.
But Choupo-Moting’s effort from around 16 yards from goal went wide of the target, undoing all the initial hard work carried out by his captain.
Cameroon seemed to have difficulty breaking down Japan who seemed to have come up with a second half game plan which involved tight man to man defending.
There was some panic in the Japan danger area on 80 minutes but Kawashima managed to calm his team’s nerves by coming off his line to punch clear Geremi’s free kick.
Japan came close to doubling their lead eight minutes from time when a powerful long range effort by Hasebe from around 20 yards from goal had Souleymanou diving at full length to stop. Souleymanou only managed to parry the ball into the path of Okazaki who blasted the ball past him and onto the outside of the post.
Towards the end of the game Cameroon came close to finding an equalizer on two occasions. Five minutes from regulation time defender Mbia rattled the up-right with a sizzling shot around 20 yards from goal which dipped and swerved past Kawashima hitting the right corner of the cross bar.
In added time Geremi’s pin point cross from the right was side footed towards goal by Enoh Eyong from a mere four yards from goal and had Kawashima making a desperate hand stop of the ball on his line to preserve Japan’s lead. Japan managed to hold on to their lead until referee Olegario Benquerence eventually called time on the game.
The ‘Indomitable Lions’ now have to regroup for their next match which is against Denmark who were Monday’s other Group D losers, while Japan will meet the Netherlands who defeated the Danes earlier in the day.
Japan (1) 1 (Honda 39’)
Cameroon (0) 0
Japan (4-5-1): Kawashima, Abe, Komano, Tanaka, Nagamoto, Endo, Matsui (Okazaki), Okubo (Yano 82’), Hasebe (Inamoto 88’), Honda, Nakazawa
Cameroon (4-3-3): Souleymanou, Assou – Ekotto, Nkoulou, Bassong, Eto’o, Makoun (Geremi 75’), Choupo Moting (Idrissou 75’), Webo, Enoh, Mbia, Matip (Emana 63’)