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Posted by Kentaro Matsuura on 06/19/2010

Japan lost 0-1 to Holland in a closely fought battle for first place in Group E as Sneijder ripped a shot that deflected off Japan GK Kawashima. I mentioned earlier that Japan needed to score their one chance and get some luck to beat Holland. To get the tie, they would need one of those two criteria to happen. Unfortunately, Japan got neither and the result was a 1-0 loss.

First Half

The first half was quite a dreary affair with very few real chances. Holland possessed the ball for what looked like over 80% of the time, but very little of the possession came in their front third. In actuality, they held the ball for 69% of the time, which was the highest for any team so far in this World Cup. The few times that Holland did play some balls into the box, Japan’s defense was solid – better than it was against Cameroon - and Japan never felt the threat of a Dutch goal. However, Japan’s offense was even more dismal and Japan’s few attacks ended in one or two harmless shots and many balls bouncing over the end line. But the 0-0 halftime score was quite positive for Japan and there was hope that Japan would come out in the second half looking for a goal and try to squeak out a 1-0 win.

Second Half

However, it was Holland that came out on the attack in the second half as they moved the ball around well and got in a number of crosses to Van Persie up front. Holland’s offensive attitude was finally rewarded when a ball was played back to Sneijder, who bombed a shot from 20-25 yards out. The shot was hard, low and had no spin, but Kawashima was in position to knock it out. Unfortunately for Japan, the ball seemed to take a last second swerve and as Kawashima’s body flew right, the ball went left. Kawashima got his hands on the ball but he could only deflect it into his own net. That was the piece of luck that Japan needed to keep the score 0-0, and unfortunately luck was not on Japan's side today. Not saying that the shot was a lucky shot, it was actually perfectly struck, but a little luck for Japan could've saved it. Kawashima did redeem himself twice later in the game when he stopped Afellay on two one-on-one breakaways.

After Sneijder’s goal, Japan went on the attack and it was pleasing to see that Japan are actually capable of possessing the ball. A number of balls got to Okubo and with his dribbling he was able to create a a few shots. While none of his shots were fear-inducing, I was pleased with his aggressiveness towards the goal. Shunsuke Nakamura finally made his 2010 World Cup debut and his experience showed as he was able to keep the ball and distribute. Though he didn’t show any of his killer passes from previous years, he did have a positive impact on the offense.

Japan’s one real chance came in the dying minutes of the game as Okazaki was sent through behind the defense. He volleyed the bouncing ball with his left foot from about 7 yards out, but the ball shot right over the ball. The shot was difficult in that Okazaki was running to his left and needed to tweak his body to direct the body towards goal, but a forward at the world level should be able to get this on net. Japan needed to convert this one chance and since this ball didn’t go in, Japan came away with zero points.

Not a Bad Result

Before the game, no one really knew how Japan would react to their win against Cameroon. There was some concern that Japan would suffer a victory hang-over and allow a number of goals to Holland’s offensive machine. Surely, some pundits were expecting Japan to let in four goals like Australia and South Korea have done already in this World Cup. Thankfully, Japan came to play and frustrated Holland for a good amount of the game. I was hoping for a 1-1 tie, but the 0-1 did not destroy our goal differential and still keeps Japan right in the hunt. We’ll have to wait on the result of the Cameroon Denmark match, but a decent result against Denmark should still get us through to the second round.

Denmark isn’t the dominant team that Holland is, but their organization, size and strength will be a challenge for Japan. Japan should be able to play more like they did in the second half today and go for a goal from the beginning. I didn’t mention Honda in today’s article, because it seemed that the midfield was not getting him the crosses that they did against Cameroon. Hopefully, Japan can find a way to get him the ball against Denmark so he can be effective and add to Japan’s goal tally.



Coach Okada: Holland was a strong opponent but we could’ve gotten points from this game and the players gave their best but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. We apologize to our fans. But there’s no time to hang our heads. We’ll rest up and then prepare to bring our best against Denmark.

FW Honda: It’s very unfortunate. I felt I could’ve done more and it wasn’t a good day. But I’ll regroup. It wasn’t fun for me today and against Denmark I want to enjoy myself like I did in the first game. I wasn’t overly focused on Holland but I have regained the understanding that my play doesn’t have an effect against an opponent as tough as them. I realized I need to improve my play further.

DF Tulio Tanaka: I thought we played well but that shot by Sneijder was really good and I thought it was amazing that they could score with one chance like that. I have my duties in the back so I didn’t go forward until I had orders from Okada. But when I did go up, I might have created one chance. That’s the difference. We all know that we can’t create many chances so I was always thinking about creating that one chance or scoring that one chance. It’s upsetting, but we still have a game left and we’re looking to get to the next round.

GK Kawashima: I saw Sneijder’s shot all the way up until 30 cm in front of me and I had the image of a save clear in my head so I’m disappointed that I let that goal in. It was a hard shot so I planned to push it outside. But the end was the problem. I knew that if we had more goals allowed it’d become difficult to get through to the next round. After I let that goal in, I knew I had to sacrifice my body and prevent further goals. I’m still upset about the game but as a team we’ll regroup and hopefully make it to the knock-out stages and I want to meet up against Holland one more time.

FW Okazaki: I put a little too much into that. I thought “here it is!” and it went too high. A striker needs to put that ball in. Both games I had chances like that and I need to get it on the frame. If I don’t put these chances in we get results like this. I don’t want it to end like this. I believe the game against Denmark will be the moment of truth. They will come at us and possibly I’ll get into the game early. I know I’ll have a chance for sure and I want to be able to finish it next time.

DF Nagatomo: The match went according to plan. They were not the kind of opponent we needed to lose to. Japan also had chances but that’s the difference between us and the world. Whether we score or don’t score. The chances are few but by scoring or not scoring the match is settled. Seeing Sneijder’s goal, I felt that’s the world’s level. I never felt like I would lose on 1v1s against Kuyt. I don’t think I left him attack much either.

MF Endo: It was a game in which we could've taken one point. It's regretful, but there's no need to hang our heads.

DF Nakazawa: There's no need to look down on this game.


Posted by Dan from the korea blog on 06/19/2010

Job well done! Not a bad result at all

Posted by cs on 06/20/2010

Japan must defeat Denmark!!!

Posted by Derek on 06/20/2010

I don't know why Okada keeps leaving Morimoto on the bench.

Posted by pheneo22 on 06/20/2010

agreed with "cs", Japan has to win against Denmark.
Japan's 2nd half performance was good even though we didn't score.

Posted by cnovick on 06/20/2010

Japan doesn't need to win against Denmark. They simply need a draw. 12 years ago Okada said that Japan would aim for a 1-1-1 record to get through the group stages in France '98... maybe he was referring to South Africa '10


Posted by Kei on 06/20/2010

Hardly the end of the world. In fact, with Denmark only winning their game by a one-goal margin, we're right where we hoped to be going into the last group match: in control of our own fate.

I saw a Japan team that played every bit as well as we did against Cameroon, and is fully capable of getting the required result vs the Danes. They'll provide a different challenge from what we've seen from the first two opponents, but the team seems to be brimming with confidence at the moment.

Posted by Kentaro Matsuura on 06/20/2010

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Kei is right. Now that we know the result of the Denmark/Cameroon game, we know that all we need is a tie agaist Denmark. In fact, even if we had tied against Holland we would still need the same result against Denmark to make it to the next round. What was more important than tying against Holland was the fact that we only lost 1-0. Had we lost 2-0, Denmark would go through with a tie against Japan. In retrospect those two saves by Kawashima were incredibly important.

Derek, Morimoto did not play because he was hurt and practiced separately from the team this week. I should've updated his status in the blog, but glad you mentioned him. Another issue is that Okada doesn't particularly like Morimoto that much. I hope he gets a chance to show what he has though. His power and strength are rare within the Japanese team.

Posted by sam on 06/20/2010

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to all of us and for Ken for his great posts!

Thank God Mr. Okada stuck to his original "Plan A", ie. 4-3-2-1 , for as long as he could. (at times it felt like 6-4-0-0 )

That was what had to be done, and as everyone agrees, at the end of the day, we would have been in the same situation against Denmark, even if we had drawn.

I have heard criticisms from almost everyone I know that this was probably the most "boring" match ever, but who cares? We are not Brazil or Argentina. And we should never assume we are.

I also liked the attitude shown by the Blue Samurais 10-15 minutes after the goal against us. It gave me hope for the next Denmark match, and if Mr. Okada wants to change his tactic to 4-4-2, or 3-4-3, and we lose, I would still be proud of our 23 players.

Getting to the final 16 depends solely on our performance and the Danes are accessible. Lets put all the meat on the grill and make history guys!!


Posted by wesli on 06/21/2010

you need the ball to score. The dutch having such ball control shows how weak Japan really is. It was like watching adults play with a bunch of 10 year olds........

Posted by sam on 06/21/2010


Thank you so much for an "adult" like criticism and observation. Yes, Netherlands played amazingly well and enchanted everyone! Japan showed how "weak" they really are and could do nothing with the overwhelming talent of the Dutch squad. Hoping the best for you in the next round!

When adults play (seriously) against a "bunch of " 10 year olds in Netherlands for 90+ minutes... is the end result a 1-0 for the big guys?

Posted by cs on 06/21/2010

wesli is not entirely wrong and probably his view did not come out well. I guess the Oranje did expose the shortcomings of the Jap team, but I do believe the Jap has more bite than they think they do. Somehow the strengths did not manifest during the match. I hope that the Jap can just throw everything into the next match and show what they can do. Pray Shunsuke Nakamura plays more.

Posted by Tetsuka on 06/21/2010

Japan should not be dissapointed with their result against Netherlands. I am very proud of the fighting spirit shown. Again I'm very impressed with Kawashima's attitude and indeed without his 2 1-on-1 saves, the match against denmark will be more pressurising. Keep it up Japan!

Posted by pheneo22 on 06/21/2010

"It was like watching adults play with a bunch of 10 year olds........"
That is going too far no matter how you look at it.
Yes, the Dutch dominated possesion and good for them. Having said that, Japan allowed the dutch possession as long as they don't get to the final third. That was their game plan, successful or not, that what they sat out to do. Defend deep and only go for attack in the last 25mins. If you look at the Aussie, South Korea, North Korea, where they got absolutely trashed by supperior teams, you'd appreciate the 1-0 scoreline. It's not easy to defend against these teams, Japan in the past might not be able to pull it off but this team has improved.

Anyway, I dont care what people want to say, all I know, come Denmark game, I will support the team with all my heart like I always do and I believe all the other supporters will do the same.

Posted by cs on 06/22/2010

Agree with pheneo22's insightful analysis.

Ken-san, anymore updates?

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Kentaro Matsuura was born in Japan and following a move to the USA resorted to following the national team by renting video tapes in Chinatown. Most recently, Kentaro played for and ran the football club at his graduate school, where he studied business. He will join a consulting firm upon graduation.

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