Monday 13 August 2012

Historic Olympic silver for Nadeshiko but men miss out on medal



The Japanese men’s hopes of returning from London with a first Olympic football medal since 1968 were dashed by defeats to Mexico in the semi-finals and South Korea in the bronze medal match, but Nadeshiko Japan made up for the disappointment by taking silver at the end of a superb campaign across the United Kingdom.

In Norio Sasaki’s final hurrah as manager, Japan clinched their place in the final of the women’s competition with a 2-1 victory over France last Monday.

A long free kick from Aya Miyama slipped through the fingers of French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi for Yuki Ogimi to open the scoring, before Miyama repeated the trick with a perfect ball onto the head of Mizuho Sakaguchi to double the advantage.

France hit back through substitute Eugenie le Sommer, but missed a golden chance to equalise when Elise Bussaglia sent a late penalty wide of the post.

The gold medal match at Wembley pitted Nadeshiko against the United States in a repeat of their glorious World Cup final matchup last year. But they were up against it immediately when Alex Morgan sent the ball across the six-yard box for Carli Lloyd to head the defending champions into an eighth-minute lead.

Japan fought back strongly, with both Ogimi and Miyama hitting the crossbar either side of a genuine penalty claim when Tobin Heath looked to have handled in the area.

But their lack of a clinical edge was exposed early in the second half when Lloyd was allowed too much room to run at the defence and hit a superb shot across Miho Fukumoto into the far corner of the net.

Ogimi scrambled home her third goal of the Games to halve the deficit after two attempts by Homare Sawa had been blocked, and Japan were given the perfect opportunity for a dramatic equaliser when Mana Iwabuchi took advantage of a defensive slip-up to run clean through on goal.

However, her hesitant shot was too close to Hope Solo, who pulled off a fine save to ensure victory for the Americans.

Tears at the final whistle were replaced with smiles by the time the teams returned to the pitch to collect their medals, as the gravity of their achievement began to dawn on the newly-decorated Japanese players. A crowd of over 80,000 – the largest ever to watch women’s football in the UK – was charmed by one last performance as the Nadeshiko squad took the podium and bowed in sequence to resemble a synchronised swimming team; or perhaps even Genki Sudo’s World Order dance troupe.

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The men’s semi-final had started in the most positive fashion for Japan as Yuki Otsu smashed a terrific opener from outside the box after just 12 minutes.

But they were pegged back by a header from Marco Fabián on the half-hour mark, before an uncharacteristic error by Takahiro Ogihara allowed Oribe Peralta to loft the ball over Shuichi Gonda midway through the second half.

Javier Cortés made it 3-1 in stoppage time to send Takashi Sekizuka’s men to Cardiff for a grudge match for bronze against fierce rivals South Korea on Friday.

Japan again began well, but fell behind on the counter attack when Park Chu-Young was somehow allowed to get a shot inside Gonda’s near post despite having four defenders for company.

Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol, who was perhaps fortunate only to see yellow for an overzealous challenge on Otsu at 0-0, then broke through to make it two and dash Japanese dreams after 57 minutes.

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In the J. League, Consadole Sapporo caused another unexpected twist in the title race with a last gasp 2-1 victory over Vegalta Sendai on Saturday afternoon.

The shock result allowed Sanfrecce Hiroshima to return to the top following their tense win by the same scoreline away to Omiya Ardija five hours later.

The chasing pack is tightly condensed after Urawa Reds lost away to Vissel Kobe while Kashiwa Reysol could only draw at home to FC Tokyo. Yokohama F Marinos and surprise package Sagan Tosu are right back in the championship picture after respective wins over Albirex Niigata and Kawasaki Frontale.

Amidst torrential rain, Gamba Osaka fought back from two down at home to city rivals Cerezo Osaka but were unable to turn their domination into a vital three points as the derby finished 2-2.

Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse beat Nagoya Grampus 3-2, and Kashima Antlers edged Jubilo Iwata 2-1.


Olympic Games results – Men’s
Semi-finals

Mexico 3-1 Japan
South Korea 0-3 Brazil

Bronze medal match
South Korea 2-0 Japan

Gold medal match
Brazil 1-2 Mexico


Olympic Games results – Women’s
Semi-finals

France 1-2 Japan
Canada 3-4 United States (after extra time)

Bronze medal match
Canada 1-0 France

Gold medal match
United States 2-1 Japan


J1 results (matchday 21)
Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Vegalta Sendai
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Nagoya Grampus
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Jubilo Iwata
Omiya Ardija 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashiwa Reysol 1-1 FC Tokyo
Kawasaki Frontale 1-2 Sagan Tosu
Yokohama F Marinos 3-2 Albirex Niigata
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Cerezo Osaka
Vissel Kobe 1-0 Urawa Reds


J2 results (matchday 28)
Tokyo Verdy 0-1 Kyoto Sanga
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Mito HollyHock
Kataller Toyama 1-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
Avispa Fukuoka 1-3 Shonan Bellmare
Oita Trinita 0-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Montedio Yamagata 0-1 Yokohama FC
Thespa Kusatsu 1-1 FC Gifu
JEF United Chiba 0-1 Machida Zelvia
Gainare Tottori 0-2 Fagiano Okayama
Ehime FC 1-2 Tokushima Vortis
Roasso Kumamoto 3-0 Tochigi SC


Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-final second leg results
Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 Gamba Osaka (Kashiwa win 5-2 on aggregate)
FC Tokyo 2-0 Vegalta Sendai (FC Tokyo win 4-2 on aggregate)
Nagoya Grampus 3-4 Shimizu S-Pulse (4-4 on aggregate; Shimizu go through on away goals)
Cerezo Osaka 0-3 Kashima Antlers (Kashima win 5-1 on aggregate)
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