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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Japan Out Of 2018 World Cup Of Soccer

I was watching Japan play Belgium on Monday afternoon (it was a holiday in Canada). Japan lost 3-2.

Through the first half of the game, it was like watching young boys try to keep up against fit men... with Japan being the boys.

Belgium simply dominated them... and was impressed enough by the Japanese defense as much as I was disappointed in Belgium's lack of finish in scoring. Still... it was 0-0 at half-time.

And then something weird happened... Japan on a counter-attack (that's where you have been defending your ow goal and get to bring the ball out of your end quickly)... a beautiful play and presto, Japan was up 1-0.

I was still stunned when minutes later Japan did it again, scoring from just outside the box  - a distance most players won't shoot from... though I have no idea why... because when I played, it was a viable opportunity... and obviously Japan thought the same in this instance. Anyhow... 2-0 Japan after about 50 minutes...

And then I switched channels because I was trying to see the score of a baseball game... and when I came back a minute later it was 2-1. I went away again a few minutes after that to check on the baseball score... and when I came back it was 2-2.

It wasn't unexpected, as Belgium had clearly been the dominant team, aside from a few excellent runs by Japan that netted them the two goals.

With the score tied 2-2, and the 90 minutes having expired, the game goes into what is know as "injury time"... where the referee can decide just how many minutes should be added on because someone was lying and rolling on the ground from some phantom menace... or perhaps there was a minute-long celebration after a goal... and in this game there were four goals... and four minutes of injury time added on.

With 2-1/2 minutes gone in injury time, Japan had a corner kick... and wasted 320 seconds setting it up... and to better its odds, sent most of its half-backs forward to try and help the forwards score.

But that's when we all got to see that as good as Japan's counter-attack was, Belgium had one, too.

Breaking down with an odd man advantage, Belgium scored with about 30 seconds left in injury time, absolutely crushing the soul of every Japanese soccer fan.

It was a very nice goal, and to be honest... Belgium was full marks for the victory... indeed, the better team won.

Even if the score had remained tied, the teams would have to play an additional 30 minutes of soccer... and I would have been okay with that, because that second half was some of the best soccer I've seen this tournament... and it was clean... nothing dirty... nothing fake. Just good soccer.

During this extra time, regardless if someone scores... it is played out to its entirety... in other words, no sudden death overtime. 

Had the score remained tied after the extra time, it would have gone to penalty kicks. While I understand the necessity of having a winner, and realize the players are already dead tired after 120+ minutes... I still hate penalty kicks being used to decide a winner.

It's like in NHL regular season hockey... you play a complete team game for whatever length of time, and then the game is decided on individual skill. I DO find it exciting, but having gone through this in soccer, I hated it when we won by penalty kicks (I scored on my one and only attempt)... and I'm sure I would have hated it even more had I lost that way.

Oh well... Japan lost a fantastic soccer game against Belgium who were/are the better team. No shame in that.

While I gave Japan's team the cold shoulder for its honor-lacking display in a 1-0 loss against Belgium that made them play safe, penalty-free boring soccer in that loss to advance to this game of Final 16... the Belgium match was great.

No shame in this loss, lads. Your honor has been restored.

Andrew Joseph

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