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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Japan Ties Uzbekistan In Men's WC Soccer Qualifying

Japan midfielder Hasebe Makoto gets ready to play the ball past an Uzebekistan player.
In what can only be called a discouraging result, Japan, Asia's reigning champs, were forced to come from behind to tie home team Uzbekistan in Tashkent in the 3rd round of qualifying for the men's 2014 World Cup soccer tourney.

While the Asian Group C bracket is considered a tough one, Japan still should have done better. Despite playing on a bumpy surface, Japan gave up an early goal to Uzbekistan midfielder Server Djeparov in the 8th minute of the match.

And it might have been worse. One minute earlier, a spunky Uzbekistan team playing at Pakhator Stadium nearly grabbed the lead then when midfielder Timur Kapadze hit the crossbar from just outside the box. One minute later team captain Djeparov got ahold of a loose ball after a the Japanese defence could not clear a cros from Uzbekistan's Alexander Geynrikh.

The Japanese Blue Samurai were playing without Honda Keisuke and Nakamura Kengo (surrnames first), but still made a game of it and poured on the pressure after that initial goal.

Still, a long-range shot from Uzbekistan's Victor Karpenko nearly caught Japanese goalie Kawashima Eiji napping.

But just before the half, Japan nearly scored the equalizer when Lee Tadanari hot the post with a shot.

After the second half began, Japan scored in the 65th minute when Okazaki Shinji nodded home a Josida Maja cross.

Now fully awake, goalie Kawashima preserved the single point with a beautiful save in the dying seconds.

With the single point, Japan's record stands at 1 W, 1D after two matches for four points and  the lead in Group C.

Uzebkistan is in second with a 1W, 1D record and four points, but is in second owing to giving up a goal to the visiting Japanese team.

North Korea sits with three points from 1W and 1L, having beaten Tajikistan earlier in the day, while Tajikistan remain pointless following two losses. Tajikistan took the place of Syria at the last moment after it was discovered Syria had used an ineligible player during 2nd round qualifying.

Japan's next game is October 11th at home in Osaka versus Tajikistan - yes, a month from now after two games in five days.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

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