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Posted by Kentaro Matsuura on 06/29/2010

Another day, another day to make history. Japan take on Paraguay as both teams will fight to make the quarterfinals for the first time in their histories. As always, I'll use the live blog to note major occurences in the game then write-up a match report later. Gambarre Nippon!

Pre Match -5: Stadium looks somewhat empty in sections with entire blocks of seats being open in the corners. But again a huge Japanese flag is unleashed in the main stands. This has to give strength to the players and fans alike. Paraguayan players' faces look pretty neutral during their national anthem. Japanese players also look neutral. GK Kawashima's face does not look nearly as intense as in the Denmark game.

Pre Match -1: Same line-up as the past three games. This kind of consistency is good for the team.

Pre Match -1: ESPN announcer describes Okada as "bookish-looking" and "looks like a math teacher." Couldn't agree more. HAHA!

1' Japan: Okubo continues his confident offensive play by taking a shot from 20 yards out after stealing the ball. Wouldn't mind seeing him pass a bit more.

3' Japan: Komano goes up and takes a shot from 30 yards. Straight to keeper. It's nice to see Japan on the offensive even if the shots are ambitious. Corner given up to Paraguay. Cleared nicely by Nagatomo.

7' Paraguay: A dangerous cross from the right from Santa Cruz, but Benetiz cannot hit it square. Two Paraguay players collide. Both OK.

11': So far match is pretty even with possession advantage going slightly in favor Paraguay.

14' Japan: Endo puts in a free kick from 40 yards out, but ball is cleared harmlessly away.

17' Pargauay: Starting to control possession more. Japan don't seem to have any of the imagination on offense that they had against Denmark. But this is probably OK since both teams are playing very conservatively so far. A chess match today.

20' Parguay: Barrios squeezes through into the box and takes a shot but Kawashima makes a wonderful save! Could've easily been 1-0.

22' Japan: Japan with a strike from 25 yards, but it hits the cross bar!!! What a beautiful shot. We needed that!

26' Paraguay: Paraguay are starting to look real good and knocking the ball around as Japan chases.

28' Paraguay: Matsui loses ball in the midfield as he tries to dribble past. Paraguay then win corner. Off the corner, ball falls at Roque SC's feet. Wide open shot and he misses is left of the goal! Lucky for japan.

32' Japan: We finallly put some passes together and Hasebe gets a cross in but it's cleared easily. We have very little possession now.

35' Japan: Honda seemingly impatient goes out and gets the ball himself. He gives and goes and puts in a cross from the left side but it's cleared.

37' Japan: Ugly ugly tackle on Honda from behind but no card given out. Endo takes the free kick. Cleared out by Roque Santa Cruz, and Japan win the corner. Again, cleared out.

40' Japan: Matsui takes the ball brings it down the right side, lays it off to Honda who shoots with his left but it goes JUST wide!

42' Japan: Honda wins a freekick from the left side. 40 yards out. endo again but again cleared out.

Halftime: Japan and Paraguay both had two close chances but the score remains 0-0. Looked like both teams weren't ready to take any big risks, and this might continue into the second half. Japan's strategy of ensuring that we go into the half no worse than 0-0 is still in tact so let's hope we can squeak out one goal in the second and move on.

49': Play is getting a bit more open as both sides are finding space in the midfield. A little bit sloppy in the final third though.

50' Paraguay: Ortigoza gets through into the box from a 1-2 but loses the ball at the penalty spot! He should've taken it earlier and he would've had a clear shot on goal.

51': Possesion stats: Japan 37% Paraguay 63%

53' Paraguay: Paraguay continue to hold possession and get two crosses in. both are cleared harmlessly.

54' Japan: Nagatomo takes a shot off a cleared cross, but the shot is deflected off the defense and straight to the keeper.

55' Paraguay: Benetiz goes through clear on the left side, and rips a shot but Nakazawa dives in from nowhere to block it. Corner from Paraguay. Cleared out but Paraguay keep possession.

57' Japan: Matsui gets a yellow card for kicking the ball after the whistle. This kind of ticky tacky refereeing is unnecesary in the game of soccer.

58' Paraguay: Again Benetiz gets through behind the defense on the left, but the shot is blocked. Cross goes out to Riveros right after and it's headed at goal, but right to the GK!

59' Japan: Japan counters down the right side, but Komano shanks the shot/cross and the ball goes over the touch line.

60' Paraguay Substitute: Benetiz Out. Valdez In

62' Japan: Japan wins a corner off a miscleared goal kick. Tulio Tanaka jump in for header but it misses just right!

64' Paraguay: Corner kick for Paraguay. Foul against Paraguay in the box, but a player was free. Lucky for Japan.

64' Japan: Japan finally string some passes together and Nagatomo puts in a nice long cross, but Matsui can't reach.

65' Japan Substitute: Matsui out, Okazaki in.

67' Paraguay: Long free kick from the right side which falls over the endline but Kawashima and Tulio Tanaka collide and Tanaka looks in bad shape.

71' Japan: Tanaka OK. Honda puts a through ball to Okazaki, but okazaki's cross is blocked for a corner. Cleared away.

72' Japan: Yellow card on Nagatomo on a very very soft foul. Ref seems keen on giving Japan yellows for soft soft violations.

74' Paraguay: Long free kick finds Parguay behind the defense. He cuts it back but it's cleared. Parguay throw in leads to corner kick as Kawashima does well to clear. Corner is cleared out.

75' Parguay sub: Ortigoza out, Barreto in.

79' Paraguay: Long shot from 35 yards out bounces in front of Kawashima but he catches it clean.

80' Paragauy: Defender deliberate elbows Endo in the Face!!!! No fould given. Absolute horrible call considering Japan have received two soft yellow cards.

81' Japan Substitution: Abe out, Kengo Nakamura in. (Not Shunsuke)

82' Japan: Cross into the area from Nagatomo and Okubo goes into the GK Villa. Foul called.

87' Japan: Honda puts in a good touch to Okazaki in the box but it's cleared. Japan are attacking.

88' Japan: Nakamura with a beautiufl dribble past two defenders. Ball to Honda then a cross but cleared. Japan maintain possession and put in another cross but foul for hasebe in the box.

89' Paraguay: Paraguay get possession in the last third and put a couple crosses in but all are cleared out.

90': 3 minutes extra time.

91' Japan: Freekick for Japan from right side. 50 yards. endo to take it. Nakazawa wins the header and ball floats to Tulio tanaka but his foot can't reach the ball!

93' Japan: Are you absolutely kidding me? Honda gets a yellow card in midefield for handball. Absolutely horrible.

Regular Time Up: I cannot believe the refereeing today. Japan have gotten three yellow cards for time wasting, arguing, and an inadvertant handball in the midfield on a difficult chest trap. Paraguay have elbowed players in the head and have not gotten a card. OK, but we need to forget that and play composed in overtime. Japan get together, the entire team, in a circle... Just like in 1997 in Johor Bahru when Japan clinched their first world cup birth in overtime.

91' Japan: Okubo dribbles up in the middle after a beautiful touch by Honda. Ball goes out to Nakamura but it's cleared for a corner! Corner is headed by Okazaki but misses past the left post. Decent try.

93' Japan: Endo freekick from past midfield, but it goes long.

93' Paraguay: found an opening down the left side but a bad cross and it's cleared. Paraguay had numbers but Japan lucky to clear.

94' Paraguay: Cardozo in. Roque Santa Crua out.

95' Paraguay: Cross in from the left and Lucas heads it but right to the keeper. Lucky for Japan.

97' Paraguay: They just bombarded the goal with multiple attacks. Valdez with an amazing turn in the box but Kawashima comes up HUGE.

99' Japan: Freekick from the left side. 35 yards out. Honda with a low shot to the far post. Nakamura almost had it! Keeper clears for corner. Corner is cleared.

100' Paraguay: Paraguay continue to attack, and a cross is cleared out. Long throw. Ball drops in the box. Ball flicked over the goal. Japan getting lucky.

103' Japan: Freekick from the left touchline. Again, Endo. Goalkeepr bobbles it! But then catches.

105': First overtime period over.

105' Japan Substitution: Tamada in. Okubo out.

107' Japan. Freekick from 40 yards on the right. Nakazawa and Tulio are up in the box. cleared out.

109: Paraguay: Freekick from midfield, flicked on but right to the GK again.

111' Paraguay: Corner won off bad clear. Ball goes up, but header goes far left.

112' Japan: Freekick from the right side. 30 yards out. Endo. Find tulio tanaka on the head but he heads it over the line. Should've headed back across goal.

113' Japan: Endo yellowcarded. He's out of the next match.

116' Japan: Japan with the best chance so far. on the counter Okazaki gets ball through to Tamada. But ball is crossed horribly.

119' Paraguay. A little flick over the defense but ball goes over endline. PK's coming close.

120' Japan: Free kick from 45 yards out in the middle. Probably last chance for Japan. Nope. he won't let us take it. It's going to penalties.

P1: Barreto in.
J1: Endo in. No korokoro pk.
P2: Barrios in. Kawashima guesed right.
J2: Hasebe in.
P3: Riveros in.
J3: Komano out. off crossbar.
P4: Valdez in.
J4: Honda in.
P5: Cardozo in.

Paraguay wins.

Lots of tears on the field. Endo, Okada, Komano, everyone.


Posted by guillermo on 06/29/2010

go JAPAN!!!! i hope they make quarterfinals so we can beat them... good luck...

Posted by pheneo22 on 06/29/2010

performance was good. but they seemed a bit nervous. quite indecisive in the final 3rd. hopefully we can nick a goal in the 2nd half

Posted by coliÑ on 06/29/2010

I'm so glad you are live blogging! I don't have access to a TV. Hope we score in OT. But if we don't, what our chances in penalty kicks?

Posted by Chad Arimura on 06/29/2010

c'moooon Japan. show some late energy burst...... you can put these guys away.

Posted by Victor C on 06/29/2010

Penalty kicks!

Posted by chad arimura on 06/29/2010


Posted by cs on 06/29/2010

Disappointed but good fight.

Posted by John C on 06/29/2010

damn... that hurts. but you gotta give it up for japan. they were physically outmatched and still almost won. good play

Posted by Sherry on 06/29/2010

I don't know why, but that felt even more heartbreaking than seeing the US lose to Ghana a second time in the World Cup...

Posted by Derek on 06/29/2010

I don't know how much they were "physically outmatched". That's the stereotype, but if you watch Japan play, yes Paraguay had a height advantage and won more headers, but I thought Japan did a good job playing physically, not shying away from contact, etc. And Japan definitely matches, or even beats, Paraguay in pace.

I was disappointed that Japan seemed content to play for the draw and the roll of the dice that is a penalty shootout. Especially in the first half, there were way too many speculative long balls, a safe, conservative, lazy kind of offense. I would have liked to have seen them bring more men forward and string together some creative passes, but they opted not to take chances. Defense was great, but overall, I don't feel like they really deserved to win.

Posted by Masashi on 06/29/2010

日本代表よく頑張った。。。Japan can only look forward to 2014 World Cup to make things right. With promising youngsters breaking through, nothing is impossible anymore!

Posted by Aoki on 06/29/2010

I was screaming at the TV, close to tears, cheering on the Blue Samurais~
It was a touch match, but I hope Japan can learn from it and come back in 2014 fighting fit~!

of course, if I was the ref, I wouldn't have given Japan half of the yellow cards they received... Paraguay was definitely playing a little more harshly than necessary...


Posted by sam on 06/29/2010

So close, yet so far... It was a brave and heroic match by a team that no one, including us, the japanese fans, gave a penny during the preparation stage. The Blue Samurais rose above every conceivable expectation even in this last game.

1) Could we have done better? Yeah...Maybe... Could they have done better? Definetly, yes, but we didn't let them!

2) Today's starting 11 played 4 very physical games in a 2 week span with almost zero subs in defence, which makes the clean sheet against Paraguay in 120+ minutes simply outstanding, almost miraculous.

3) In my opinion, Komano was one of the MVPs for the 4 matches played. His silent effort, consistency and dicipline, contributed 120% for the amazing history already achieved by our squad. The missed penalty is only a very unfortunate anecdote.

I am still very sad, but at the same time very proud of being Japanese. Thank you Matsuura-san for a great blog! We will see you again in Brasil 2014!

Everyone, Otsukaresamadeshita!

Posted by mimosa0224 on 06/29/2010

Great team work throughout the games by Samurai Japan!

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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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