Japan win shakes it up

[GROUP E] Only three goals were scored in the two Group E games on Monday – the Netherlands beat Denmark with an own goal and a rebound off a post – yet Japan needed just one goal to post the upset of the tournament so far when it knocked off Cameroon. Here 's what we liked and didn't like about Monday's Group E action ...

What we liked ...

-- Following up on South Korea's defeat of Greece, Japan notched another victory for Asia by knocking off Cameroon, 1-0, to post its first-ever World Cup win outside Japan. It reached the second round as co-host in 2002, but in six other matches had lost five and tied just one. It defended intelligently yet aggressively, and many times its determined players withstood physical challenges of bigger, heavier opponents.

-- Midfielder Keisuke Honda scored Japan’s goal in the 39th minute. The former Nagoya Grampus Eight and VVV Venlo midfielder moved to CSKA Moscow last January in a transfer valued at 6 million euros (about $7.6 million). He scored his fifth goal for Japan the day after his 24th birthday from a deep cross by Daisuke Matsui, whose workrate and persistence unsettled Cameroon repeatedly.

-- Eljero Elia came into the Netherlands-Denmark match midway through the second half to inject some energy into a Dutch team sputtering a bit in the absence of Arjen Robben. Elia’s runs and dribbles paid off in the 85th minute, when his shot eluded Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen and came back off the post for Dirk Kuyt to tap in the second goal of a 2-0 win.

What we didn’t like ...

-- Cameroon not only lacked sophistication and ideas in its attacks, it played badly. Balls were knocked behind teammates or too far ahead, simple traps were botched, and many headlong rushes were blocked by a patient Japanese team. A thunderous shot off the crossbar by Stephane Mbia late in the match nearly salvaged a point Cameroon didn’t really deserve.

-- There were empty seats in many areas of the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein for the Japan-Cameroon match. The official attendance of 30,620 represents about three-quarters of the listed capacity (40,991), the smallest venue of the 10 selected for the World Cup.

-- Sorensen recently recovered from a dislocated elbow, so maybe that – and not the maligned Jabulani ball -- was the cause of his bobble of a routine shot from Kuyt. The keeper recovered in time to avert another disaster and at least he didn’t guide the ball over his own goal line, a la Robert Green of England and Faouzi Chaouchi of Algeria.

1 comment about "Japan win shakes it up".
  1. James Madison, June 15, 2010 at 12:37 a.m.

    I didn't keep count, but it struck me that the pass completion percentage of both Cameroon and Paraguay was less than that of the U.S. If so, while we certainly are not up there, we are no longer cellar dwellers.

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