Japan 0-1 USA (Holden 47′)
Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium, Tianjin, China
Thursday August 7 2008
Kickoff: 17:00 China Standard Time (UTC + 8 )
The United States defeated Japan in their opening round Olympic match in Group B.
Soccerlens brought the action to you live (which meant 5 AM for those of us living in America, like myself). Click below for the live blog!
The opening match of the Olympics pits the United States against Japan in an intriguing match between two countries hoping to make an impact at these Games. The United States may have the bigger names (we all know about Brian McBride, and the hype for Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley doesn’t even approach the Adu-lation that swept the soccer world several years ago), but Japan has a talented and balanced roster full of technically sound players, with creative players like Keisuke Honda, Yohei Kajiyama and Hiroyuki Taniguchi, as well as a proven finisher up top in Takayuki Morimoto. The U.S. would settle for one creative player as the early verdict on the American team is the same one that plagued the senior team, namely an inability to score in open play.
With Group B heavyweights Nigeria and the Netherlands looming, this match is pretty much a must-win for both teams. Who wants it more? Will it be the talented, but largely unknown Japanese? Or will it be the Americans, with their big names and big holes?
Japan: Nishikawa, Mizumoto (c), Nagatomo, Morishige, Uchida, K. Honda, Kajiyama, Taniguchi, Kagawa, T. Honda, Morimoto
Subs: Yamamoto, Yoshida, Yasuda, Hosogai, Toyoda, Okazaki, Lee
Japan starts out with a 4-5-1 formation with Morimoto as the lone man up front. He’ll should get plenty of service from Kajiyama, K. Honda, and Taniguchi, though. They can always bring in a scorer like Toyoda, Okazaki, or Lee if they’re down, or they can go the other way and bring in versatile defenders like Yoshida or Yasuda.
USA: Guzan, Wynne, Orozco, Parkhurst, Bradley, Edu, Holden, Rodgers, Kljestan, Adu, McBride (c).
Subs: Seitz, McCarty, Ianni, Szetela, Feilhaber, Davies, Altidore.
The USA will start in their 3-5-2 formation. Both teams are going with 5-man midfields, so I guess we know where the battle will probably be either won or lost. Feilhaber starts on the bench (I guess he should be used to that), as does Altidore. Either of those guys could be a late-game substitute depending on the situation.
90′ +4 Almost an equalizer as poor clearance by the U.S. results in Lee one-on-one with Guzan. They both go up for the ball, and Guzan seems to strike Lee in the head with his fist. Ball goes out for the goal kick. Whew….
90′ + 3 Edu with another hard tackle on Taniguichi. No call again. Edu is getting away with a lot today.
90′ +2 Guzan is out of the box and he meets up with Toyoda again. Good technique from Guzan as he uses his body to shield Toyoda from the ball and slides to make sure he gets the ball while still in the box.
90′ Four minutes of added time.
89′ Japan comes back with another chance, but Taniguichi sends it wide left. Guzan then gets a yellow for killing too much time. When did the U.S. sign Jens Lehmann?
88′ Edu takes down Toyoda in the box for a no-call. Should have been a penalty there, so I guess we’re even.
87′ Rogers is off and Szetela is on. Szetela plays in Italy, so he should be well-versed in killing the game. Japan on the attack and Lee with a good move to get into the box. He tries to send it to Okazaki, but Guzan gets to it first. That’s another good chance for Japan.
85′ Altidore with another good move to get around the defender, but he sends the ball too long, and Nishikawa takes it away. Back the other way, Guzan and Toyoda get tangled up, and they both start posing to the ref. Just play, guys.
84′ Okazaki is on for Kagawa.
83′ Kagawa sends it in to K. Honda, who’s completely unmarked. Honda’s header is over the bar, though, and Japan blows a golden opportunity. Guzan (and the rest of the U.S.) thought he was off-sides and seemed to stop playing. Bad effort by the Americans there.
82′ U.S. is called for a foul on the keeper on the corner. Japan then breaks on the counter-attack. Feilhaber is on for Holden.
81′ Back the other way as Altidore makes a great run and beats two defenders. Nishikawa knocks it away, but Holden is there to give it back to Altidore. The ball gets deflected out for a U.S. corner. Great timing on that run from Altidore.
80′ Japan with a great chance as K. Honda with a great shot opportunity that’s deflected by his own teammate. Taniguichi is in front of the goal and he is knocked down by Edu. T. Honda then gets it and is open down the left, but he shanks the corner. Edu thought he was going to be called for the penalty there.
79′ Adu with another foul called on him, and he’s in disbelief. He’s about to go John Terry/Michael Ballack/Joe Cole on this ref.
78′ Miscommunication as Morishige tries to play one-two with his teammate, but his teammate didn’t get the memo. Ball is out for a U.S. throw.
77′ Japan builds their attack. Honda tries to get around Wynne, but Wynne gets it and tries to spring Altidore down the right. T. Honda is all over him, though, and the ref books Honda for the foul. This ref is getting a little card-happy.
74′ Here comes Altidore for McBride. Let’s see what he and Adu can do together.
73′ Rogers is down and he’s hurt. Japan, meanwhile, brings on Toyoda for Morimoto. So we have a Toyoda and two Hondas. I guess we’re living in the burbs…. K. Honda gets booked for the foul on Rogers.
71′ Honda down the right again. He seems caught between dribbling it more and passing it, and Edu takes it away. Honda seemed like he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with that ball. Edu’s had a great game.
69′ Japan has a promising attack, but Edu with another great defensive play, this time on Taniguichi.
68′ Lee earns a corner as Orozco deflects it out of bounds. It’s K. Honda again and he sends it low. Kljestan knocks it away. Honda gets it back and sends in a long-distance shot on goal, but Guzan makes a nice save.
66′ Adu down the right wing and he gets blatantly pushed down by Nagatomo in the box. Should have been a penalty there.
65′ Dangerous cross as Nagatomo with a great pass from the left towards Honda that forces Guzan to come out. Honda can’t get on the end of it, though. Whew. That could have been a goal for Japan.
64′ Bradley gets booked for a little love tap on Taniguichi. What a ticky-tack foul there. Lee is on for Kajiyama.
63′ Good effort from Holden as he works on Honda and gets past him. Honda takes him down and the U.S. have a great opportunity here. Adu sends it in, but Nishikawa punches it away. Rogers then cross it from the left towards McBride, but Japan is there to clear it.
61′ Kagawa earns the corner as he makes a dangerous run down the left flank. They go short and Honda sends it to Morimoto in the box. His header goes over the bar, though. Looks like Lee is coming in for Japan. Lee? What kind of a Japanese name is that? Apparently, he’s Korean-Japanese, so there you go.
60′ McBride draws the foul and the U.S. has a free kick opportunity. Adu tries to serve it into the box for Bradley, but he can’t handle it.
58′ Uchida (who’s been silent in the second half so far) gets a deep pass, but it’s too deep for him. Guzan gets the goal kick for the U.S.
57′ Throw-in deep in Japanese territory for the U.S. Wynne tries to find McBride inside, but he’s covered. Japan deflects it out for another throw. Another long throw-in and McBride has another good chance inside. It’s defended and cleared by Japan, though. Wynne has an arm. I guess he gets that from his dad.
55′ Rogers with a great run down the left. A few stepovers and he sends it to Bradley, and he tries the long-distance shot that’s easily blocked.
54′ Japanese attack looks promising, however Edu with some good defending.
53′ Adu with a good run into the box. He does great work to keep possession even though there are 3 guys on him. Somehow, Adu gets called for the foul even though he was mauled at least twice. Still, good work from Adu. If he keeps playing like that, then Monaco will be happy.
52′ U.S. tries to play keep-away. Uh oh. You know what happens when a team starts doing that. Anyway, Adu gets booked for a stupid foul and he’s getting frustrated.
49′ Adu gets doubled up again, as Japan has apparently decided that they won’t let Adu beat them. When did Adu become Cristiano Ronaldo?
47′ GOAL! Wynne with a burst of speed down the right and it he crosses it into the box. McBride touches it back to Holden, who’s wide open. He sends the shot in, and Nishikawa can’t handle it cleanly. It trickles over the line for the goal!
46′ U.S. kicks off to start the 2nd half.
So, it’s halftime, and we’re scoreless. Japan had the better opportunities in the half, even though the U.S. seemed to control the action in the midfield for most of the half. Not many great opportunities for the U.S. as their offensive woes continue. Maybe we’ll see Altidore or Feilhaber in the second half.
45′ + 1 Uchida again and he tries to cross it from the right. This time the U.S. knocks it out for the corner. No corner, though, as the refs blow the whistle and we’re at halftime.
45′ Adu on the attack and he finds Rogers down the left flank. Rogers tries to get around again, but Uchida has learned from their previous encounters. He knocks it out to concede the corner. Holden sends it into the box and it goes to Orozco. He heads it, but it’s off the mark. Nishikawa started to come out for the ball, but decided not to. He sure is looking pretty shaky. Luckily for Japan, it hasn’t been an issue yet.
44′ Adu tries an optimistic shot of his own from long-range, and it’s well wide.
42′ Taniguichi with an optimistic shot from distance as he tries to atone for the last play. He’s well off the mark, though, and Guzan gets a goal kick.
41′ McBride heads the corner away, but Japan gets it back. Uchida finds Taniguichi all alone in front of goal. He tries to head it past Guzan, and pushes it just wide. Should have been 1-nil right there.
40′ Long pass to Adu and he makes a good move into the box. He’s alone, though, and the help comes form Japan. Uchida then makes another great run down the flank. He makes a great cross into the box for K. Honda, but it’s just deflected out for the corner. That was very promising for Japan. Uchida is having a great game.
37′ Uchida with another good cross that finds Honda (not sure which one). Honda with the header on goal, but Guzan makes a great save to deny him.
34′ Nagatomo tries to make the run down the left flank against Wynne. Wynne is beaten, but he uses his good recovery speed to make the tackle. Hmm… maybe he should have been a cornerback instead.
33′ Rogers with another quick move to get past his defender. He tries to cross into the box, but Nishikawa is there. Back again and McBride sends it to Adu. Adu with a nice shot from long-distance that’s just long. Good effort from Adu there. So I guess I have to retract that last joke….
32′ Adu tries to cross it from the right flank, but Nishikawa handles it easily. Adu hasn’t done much today. Maybe all that hype was much Adu about nothing? Ba-dum-ching! I’ll be here all week, ladies and germs….
31′ Corner is right to Morishige, and he is completely unmarked. He can’t get enough force on the header, though, and it’s over the bar for a goal kick. He was open, though, and probably should have done better.
30′ Uchida with another great run down the right flank, and he makes another dangerous cross into the box. U.S. knocks it out to concede the corner.
29′ Another deep cross into the box and Guzan has to come out for the interception. Now Japan seems to be knocking on the door.
28′ Holden with a cross into the box for Adu, but it’s cleared by Japan. Back the other way and Taniguichi is deep in U.S. territory and makes a dangerous cross across the goal. Guzan has an anxious moment as he nearly collides with a teammate, but he makes the save.
26′ Bradley with the interception right outside Japan’s box (no hand-ball called) and tries to make something happen on a counterattack. It goes to Adu, and he tries a long-range shot, but it’s easily blocked.
24′ Kljestan tries to head it to Adu, but he suffers some momentary color-blindness and gives it away once again. It happens, I guess. Vinny Testaverde can relate.
23′ Morimoto makes a good run towards the box, but Edu is there with a great tackle to stop a promising Japan attack.
21′ Japan wins the corner, and K. Honda will take it. They go short, Uchida with a brilliant cross to Morishige who has Guzan way out of position. All he has to do is tap it in. Unfortunately, Morishige seemed just as shocked as the U.S. did that Uchida’s pass made it to him, and he shanks it.
20′ Wynne throws it right to McBride deep in the box as the Japanese have a defensive breakdown. They recover, though, and can clear before McBride can do any damage.
19′ U.S. is really controlling the midfield right now. Too bad they can’t seem to generate any creative chances in the box.
18′ Kljestan with another giveaway. He seems to be having an off-night. Wynne was open down the right flank, and Kljestan missed him.
16′ Adu with the free kick and he sends it inside, but it’s easily cleared by the Japanese.
15′ According to JP, Marvell Wynne is one of the fastest athletes in the entire Olympics. Really? I think Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell might have something to say about that.
14′ Two bad touches in a row for Kljestan result in two turnovers. Kljestan then gets it back and makes a strong run into the box and gives it to McBride. McBride then lays it back to Bradley, who unleashes a shot from outside the box. Nishikawa makes the save, though.
11′ McBride gets fouled by K. Honda, and Holden takes the kick. It’s a set-play for the U.S., so maybe they can score here. Holden’s cross is misplayed by Nishikawa, but he gets enough to fist the ball away from harm.
10′ Good ball in as Kagawa makes a great run into the box, gives it to K. Honda, who then tries the over-the-top lob back to Kagawa. It’s long, though, and Guzan is there.
8′ JP and Balboa are finding ways to praise Landon Donovan even though he isn’t playing. Nice work, men.
7′ Rogers makes a run down the left flank. He shows some nice pace, but isn’t fast enough as Japan is there to take it away.
6′ Uchida with a nice run into the box, but Orozco with some stout defending.
5′ Cross to Morimoto in the box, but it’s too high for him.
4′ Free kick into the box, U.S. defends it. Header on goal, but Guzan makes the easy save. Aston Villa fans rejoice.
3′ Adu’s first touch, he tries to make the turn, and he has his pocket picked. Japan with the counterattack down the left. Klejestan makes the foul on K. Honda to stop that.
2′ Wynne stops a Japanese attack. You know how I know I’m old? I not only remember that Marvell Wynne’s dad played baseball, I had his rookie card.
0′ And we’re off. Japan kicks off.
0′ No anthems? Too bad. I always like seeing the players sing along.
0′ Well, look at it this way for the American men. They can’t play any worse than the women did yesterday. Yikes.
0′ Ugh. It’s 5:00 AM, and I’m ready for some football. Now I remember how painful it was to watch the 2002 World Cup. Damn time difference….
Well, the U.S. got exactly what they needed as they pick up three valuable points. They scored during open play, which was a big moment for them. They had some defensive breakdowns, but Guzan bailed them out. Adu and McBride didn’t score, but they both played well and kept the pressure on the Japanese defense. Holden and Rogers played well in midfield and really helped the U.S. hold their own against the Japanese midfield. On defense Wynne and Orozco played well, and while Edu got away with a few fouls, he played a great game, continually cutting out promising Japanese attacks.
As for Japan, they probably deserved at least a point out of this, and they had more quality chances. However, they got unlucky a few times and finished poorly at other times. Uchida seemed to attack down the right at will while K. Honda and Taniguichi both had a number of opportunities to get on the scoreboard. Morimoto didn’t do much as the service to him was poor.
In the end, the U.S. get the win, and that’s all that matters. They’ll have to play better if they want to beat Nigeria or the Netherlands, but three points are nothing to sneeze at. They did exactly what they needed to do in their opening match, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Man of the Match:
The goal might not have been a thing of beauty, but for a team that doesn’t get many goals in open play, Holden’s goal was huge. Holden also played well in midfield, controlling the action in midfield (especially since Bradley had a quiet game), and combining with Rogers to continually put pressure on the Japanese defense. Honorable mention goes to Guzan, as he really showed that if there’s one thing the U.S. has done well over the years, it’s producing quality goalkeepers.