Monday 06 August 2012

Japan inch closer to double medal glory

Japan’s male and female football teams each stand on the brink of Olympic medals after superb victories in the quarter-finals secured qualification for the last four at London 2012.

Nadeshiko Japan will line up against France at Wembley later this evening after beating Brazil 2-0 in Cardiff on Friday, while the men take on Mexico at the same venue tomorrow having thrashed Egypt 3-0 at Old Trafford 24 hours later.

With their places in the knockout stages assured with a game to spare, both sides had completed their group campaigns with rather uneventful scoreless draws, but the Japanese women were quick to restore excitement to the proceedings against Group E runners-up Brazil at the Millennium Stadium.

The captain Marta blazed over with a glorious chance for the South Americans on the quarter-hour mark, and Norio Sasaki’s charges took advantage to turn the screw for a spell of sustained pressure of their own. Yuki Ogimi opened the scoring after 26 minutes with a composed finish having been sent clean through by a smartly executed restart.

Brazil fought back after half time, missing two good opportunities to equalise when Marta’s free kick flew narrowly wide before strike partner Cristiane headed over.

But Nadeshiko were much more clinical, despite conceding the lion’s share of possession, and doubled their advantage on 73 minutes. Ogimi robbed Bruna to set up a counter attack and send a perfect ball over the defence for the on-running Shinobu Ohno, who cut inside and fired home off the underside of the bar.

The men were quick to demonstrate their attacking intentions in Manchester on Saturday, as Hiroshi Kiyotake headed the first chance wide inside just 30 seconds.

They did not have to wait long to find an opener, as Kiyotake dispossessed Eslam Ramadan just inside halfway and sent a low cross for Kensuke Nagai to knock the ball past both defender Saadeldin Saad and goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi, and finally into the vacant net.

Nagai was soon forced off with a bruised thigh sustained in the move – he should be fit for the semi-final – but his replacement, Manabu Saito, made a significant impact when he raced through on goal only to be tugged down just outside the area by Saad, who was promptly dismissed.

Japan took a while to make use of their man advantage and could have been forced to pay when Mohamed El Nery’s shot was well saved by Shuichi Gonda on 76 minutes.

But a well-deserved victory was sealed with two goals in five minutes thereafter. Kiyotake crossed in a low free kick for the skipper Maya Yoshida to dive in at the near post and head home Japan’s second, before a Takahiro Ogihara cross found Yuki Otsu free to head a late third.

Nadeshiko are looking for their first ever Olympic medal, having previously finished fourth in Beijing four years ago, while the men’s team took bronze in Mexico City way back in 1968.


In domestic news, Marcus Tulio Tanaka was the hero of the J. League weekend after netting four goals as a makeshift striker in Nagoya Grampus’s 5-1 drubbing of Vissel Kobe.

The result takes the 2010 champions back up to fifth; six points behind returning leaders Vegalta Sendai, who played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Yokohama F Marinos. Sanfrecce Hiroshima fall to second after conceding two late goals to suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat to Shimizu S-Pulse, who had been winless in nine and saw Lee Ki-Je dismissed earlier in the second half.

Returning hero Leandro netted twice as Gamba Osaka beat Omiya Ardija 3-1 to move within four points of safety and drag the Squirrels into the relegation zone with them. Cerezo Osaka are up to 14th ahead of next Saturday’s derby at Banpaku after trouncing bottom side Consadole Sapporo 4-0. Albirex Niigata continued their fine recent run under Masaaki Yanagishita with a 1-1 draw against champions Kashiwa Reysol.

Elsewhere, Urawa Reds and Jubilo Iwata missed the chance to close on the leaders after 2-2 home draws against FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale, respectively, while Kashima Antlers beat Sagan Tosu 2-0.

Olympic Games results – Men’s
Japan 0
-0 Honduras
Spain 0-0 Morocco

Japan 3
-0 Egypt
Mexico 4-2 Senegal (after extra time)
Brazil 3-2 Honduras
Great Britain 1-1 South Korea (after extra time; South Korea won 5-4 on penalties)

Olympic Games results – Women’s
Japan 0
-0 South Africa
Canada 2-2 Sweden

Sweden 1-2 France
United States 2-0 New Zealand
Brazil 0-2 Japan
Great Britain 0-2 Canada

J1 results (matchday 20)
Urawa Reds 2-2 FC Tokyo
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Jubilo Iwata 2-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Nagoya Grampus 5-1 Vissel Kobe
Gamba Osaka 3-1 Omiya Ardija
Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Consadole Sapporo
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashima Antlers 2-0 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 27)
Mito HollyHock 2-2 Montedio Yamagata
Tokyo Verdy 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Yokohama FC 1-0 Shonan Bellmare
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-1 Ehime FC
FC Gifu 0-3 Avispa Fukuoka
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-1 Machida Zelvia
Tokushima Vortis 0-4 Oita Trinita
Thespa Kusatsu 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
JEF United Chiba 0-0 Tochigi SC
Kyoto Sanga 3-1 Gainare Tottori
Fagiano Okayama 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto

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