Football

Honda strike helps Japan upset Cameroon

Japan produced an upset by defeating fancied Cameroon 1—0 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Monday.

Keisuke Honda, who turned 24 on Sunday, scored the only goal in a match that saw Japanese organization prevail over African goodwill.

The win was Japan’s first in a World Cup played away from home.

The Asians had a terrible run of form in the build up to this tournament. But Monday’s results allowed them to pull even with the Netherlands on points atop Group E.

Cameroon had hoped to emulate Ghana — the only African team to have won in this World Cup campaign so far — but will now have their work cut out as they take on Denmark and mighty Netherlands in their remaining Group E games.

In front of some empty stands — attendance in the 40,000—plus stadium was only 30,620 — Japan showed absolutely no deference towards Cameroon, the highest—ranked African team in the tournament.

Cameroon, for their part, rarely looked dangerous, especially as Inter Milan ace Samuel Eto’o appeared stranded on the right and out of much of the action.

However, apart from a couple of fumbled crosses by Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, neither side had produced a serious attempt at goal by the half hour mark.

All changed in the 39th, however, when Daisuke Matsui delivered a perfect cross from the right to an unmarked Honda lurking on the far post.

The CSKA Moscow midfielder had plenty of time to adjust the ball, tapping it into the back of the net and celebrating his birthday in style with a Man of the Match award.

The goal should have woken Cameroon from their torpor. But the game’s narrative did not change much after the break, with the Africans lacking any sense of urgency and Japan frustrating their efforts with some excellent passing and organization.

And there were only flashes of genius from three—time African Footballer of the Year Eto’o — a rare one coming in the 49th minute, when some skillful leg work allowed him to rid himself of three opponents and deliver an inviting ball for the centrally placed Eric Choupo Moting, only for the Nuremberg forward to blast the ball wide.

Cameroon finally started applying some real pressure in the final 20 minutes of the game.

However, it was the Japanese who could have made it 2—0 on the counter attack, such as when Shinji Okazaki, in a suspect off—side position, sent the ball crashing against the post.

The Indomitable Lions finally showed some real grit in the final minutes, but Stephane Mbia’s long—range effort crashed against the crossbar while Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima produced a miraculous save to deny Pierre Webo deep in stoppage time.

The next Group E action sees Japan take on the Netherlands and Cameroon play Denmark on Saturday.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:52:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/Honda-strike-helps-Japan-upset-Cameroon/article16244215.ece

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