Sep 9 2014

Blunders cost Japan as they draw with Venezuela


Yuya Osako was taken off at halftime.


YOKOHAMA, Japan, September 9, 2014 – Defensive mistakes spoiled Javier Aguirre’s second game in charge of Japan as his team twice let leads slip away in a 2-2 draw with Venezuela at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

After their 2-0 defeat to Uruguay in Sapporo on Friday, Japan started off brightly enough with Keisuke Honda firing just over the bar after 12 seconds. But it was a bit of a false dawn as the first half descended into a scrappy contest.

Venezuela’s Rosales forced Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima into a good save after 11 minutes, while Mario Rondon’s volley went wide in the 24th minute.

Kawashima was again called into action to save from a decent effort by Rondon on the half-hour mark after some some poor play by Hosogai let the Venezuelans in.

Venezuela continued to carve out chances but luckily for Japan the next three went off target.

Japan sparked only occasionally but a nice move in the 38th minute forced a save out of the Venezuela keeper Herndandez.

Aguirre realised changes were necessary at the break and took off the lightweight pair of Yoichiro Kakitani and Yuya Osaka in favour of Shinji Okazaki and Yoshinori Muto.

The change paid off quickly for Japan.

Six minutes into the second half, Muto seized on a poor clearance from Venezuela, sprinted forward 30 meters and rifled in a left-foot shot from just outside the box.

Things were looking up and Maya Yoshida showed his confidence with a superb covering tackle in the 54th minute on Mario Rondon.

But three minutes later his fellow defender Hiroki Mizumoto let him down. The Japanese defender allowed Guerra to rob him of the ball in the middle of the park and after a chase into the box, brought him down.

Rondon stroked the penalty down the middle to make the score 1-1.

Suddenly, the game was livelier. Honda was able to be more involved than the first half when there was no pattern to Japan’s attacking play, Muto was looking confident and Yuto Nagatomo started to make more runs down the left in conjunction with Okazaki.

And it was Okazaki who turned it on for Japan’s second goal in the 67th minute. He sped down the left and put in a hopeful ball to the center where Gaku Shibasaki was on hand to sweep the ball home with a nicely controlled downward shot from 10 meters.

After Vizcarrondo brought down Muto just outside the box, Honda had a chance to put the poor free-kicks from Friday’s game against Uruguay behind him and he did well but saw his shot rebound off the inside of the post.

That was to prove costly when Cichero unleashed a speculative shot at the Japan goal in the 71st minute. Kawashima had it covered all the way but let it slip through his gloves to make the score 2-2.

Kawashima made up for that with a neat save from a Rosales long shot in the 84th minute, but Japan couldn’t pull another goal back and Aguire will have to wait another month for his first win.

Sep 5 2014

Japan lose to Uruguay on Aguirre’s debut


Tatsuya Sakai loses the ball before Japan’s first goal


By Fred Varcoe

SAPPORO, Japan, Sept. 5, 2014 – Javier Aguirre had a disappointing start to his reign as Japan manager after his side lost 2-0 to Uruguay at the Sapporo Dome on Friday.

Japan gifted Uruguay a goal in each half – Edinson Cavani in the 34th minute and Abel Hernandez in the 71st minute – and struggled to create chances.

Aguirre opted to play with Hiroshima’s Yusuke Minagawa up front and a back four of Yuto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, Tatsuya Sakai and Hiroki Sakai. Masato Morishige and Hajime Hosogai played in front of them, with Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Sporting Lisbon’s Junya Tanaka providing the attacking impetus in midfield.

Japan started brightly enough and were able to keep Uruguay in their half of the pitch for much of the first half. Okazaki had an early but weak shot, while Honda planted the first of a series of free-kicks in the Uruguay wall.

In the 14th minute, Nicolas Lodeiro took a free-kick and Cristian Rodriguez had a free header but put his effort over the bar from 6 meters out.

Okazaki responded with some dazzling work down the left to give Minagawa a similar chance, but the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker also headed over.

Japan came under pressure around the 25-minute mark and made a couple of very poor defensive headers, a sign of trouble to come as it turned out.

In the 34th minute, Hiroki Sakai played the ball back to his namesake Tatsuya who had the simple job of controlling the ball and getting rid of it as two Uruguayans bore down on him.

Unfortunately, he failed to cushion the ball and let it run to Cavani, who offloaded it to Diego Rolan. Cavani ran for the rebound before squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and a desperate lunge of atonement from Sakai. Japan 0, Uruguay 1.

To be fair, Japan had acquitted themselves decently up to that point and the game was open, perhaps even there to for the taking by whichever team showed a bit of drive and imagination. Tanaka was looking the most likely to do the job for Japan but he didn’t have enough strong support.

Japan need to find another Yasuhito Endo, a player who can take the ball and distribute it with ease. Japan were also missing Makoto Hasebe in defensive midfield and while Morishige did a decent job, Hosogai still has to turn in a convincing performance for the national team.

Tanaka’s last major contribution was a decent 25-meter shot that went straight to Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera. He was replaced by Yoichiro Kakitani with about a quarter of an hour to go.

Before that, Uruguay had gone 2-0 up. Hiroki Sakai, who had one of the first half’s dodgy headers, inexplicable headed a cross back into his own box. Kawashima made a great save from Lodeiro’s fierce shot but Tatsuya Sakai couldn’t clear the ball and Hernandez rushed in to fire it home from close range.

Honda had time to fire his third crap free-kick into the Uruguay wall as Japan resorted to negative play and didn’t look like scoring.

However, in a rare ray of hope, substitute Yoshinori Muto saw a lovely 25-meter volley bounce off the inside of the post in the 88th minute.

Japan weren’t going to get any closer than that and will have to hope for better luck against Venezuela on Tuesday.