Monday 06 February 2012

Gonda handling errors costly as Japan’s Olympic side hit stumbling block




A 90th minute goal out of nothing condemned the Japanese men’s U-23 team to a 2-1 defeat against Syria on Sunday which sees them relinquish top spot in Group C of the Asian qualifying section for the London Olympic Games this summer.

Nominally the away side despite the game being played in Amman, Jordan due to the current political situation in Syria, Japan were placed onto the back foot after 19 minutes when goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda let a Mohammed Fares free kick spill through his hands via a slight deflection off the head of Yuya Osako.

The Kashima forward, who had only entered the fray moments previously as a replacement for the injured Ryohei Yamazaki, atoned for his unfortunate initial intervention in first half stoppage time – playing the ball through for Kensuke Nagai to squeeze it past Ibrahim Alma and just inside the far post.

Osako could have clinched all three points for Japan with ten minutes remaining, but struck a tame shot off balance that Alma was able to push behind for a corner.

However, with the match seemingly headed for a draw, Syria defender Ahmad Al Salih was the surprise hero right at the death with a speculative looping shot from fully 30 yards. Gonda attempted to block with both hands stretched above his head but misjudged the flight of the ball and looked back in horror to see it nestle in the net behind him.

The setback sees Japan fall behind Syria in the Group C table on goals scored, ahead of their remaining fixtures away to already-eliminated Malaysia on 22 February and at home to third-placed Bahrain on 14 March. Only the three group winners are guaranteed a ticket to London, with the runners-up being placed into a further round-robin to determine the final qualifier.

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The European transfer window closed with Keisuke Honda still a CSKA Moscow player after his anticipated switch to Serie A side Lazio fell through at the last minute.

While conceding that the player had been keen to leave Russia – a poorly-kept secret for some time – CSKA were quick to blame the Italians for their insistence on paying the reported €14 million transfer fee in instalments; an accusation rejected by Lazio officials who accused the selling party of ‘playing games’.

Honda himself was quoted by Goal.com as saying, “It’s true that I was looking forward to Italy. All I can say is that this time things didn’t work out with Lazio. But there may be an even brighter future in store for me. My goals haven’t changed and I don’t intend to change them.”

One Japan international who was able to put an end to an unhappy spell in Europe was Masahiko Inoha, who joined Vissel Kobe from cash-strapped Croatian side Hajduk Split. The defender had reportedly not received his wages for several weeks and severed ties with the club in mid-January.

Meanwhile, German giants Bayern Munich have announced that they will not be taking up their option to complete a permanent deal for Takashi Usami, who is currently on a year-long loan from Gamba Osaka.

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