Honda fires Japan into World Cup

Updated 05 June 2013
0

Honda fires Japan into World Cup

SAITAMA, Japan: Keisuke Honda fired Japan into the 2014 World Cup yesterday with a dramatic injury-time penalty which salvaged a 1-1 draw with Australia and made them the first team to qualify alongside hosts Brazil.
Tommy Oar’s fortuitous late strike had looked set to condemn the hosts to an undeserved defeat. But after Matthew McKay handled in the box, Honda drove his spot-kick straight down the middle to earn the necessary point.
The result left the Asian champions seven points clear and uncatchable in Group B, putting them through to their fifth straight World Cup. It is the first time they have sealed qualification on home soil.
“I was nervous. I tried to hit the shot to the center,” said Honda. “If it was saved, there was nothing I could do about it.” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who joined Japan after the 2010 World Cup, said his attractive Blue Samurai side would “surprise the world” at next year’s tournament in Brazil.
“I came to Japan to bring them to the World Cup — that was my bottom line,” said the Italian. “I feel relieved that I achieved it. We are going to improve further and surprise the world.” Holger Osieck’s Australia meanwhile will be glad of the point away from home as they scrap with Jordan, Oman and Iraq for the second automatic qualifying spot. The third-placed team will go into a play-off.
Japan had the better of a highly entertaining first half, which saw chances fly thick and fast and heroic saves at both ends of the pitch.
Yasuhito Endo’s dipping free kick curled past the upright early on, and the Gamba Osaka midfielder then fired over the bar after a slick move orchestrated by Honda and Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa.
The same trio combined for another neat exchange, which drew a one-handed reaction stop from Australia’s Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to deny Kagawa from close range.
At the other end Brett Holman dragged a shot wide, New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill volleyed over and Japan’s Eiji Kawashima had to come sharply off his line after Robbie Kruse was put through one-on-one.
Kagawa and Honda continued to torment the Socceroos after the break and they nearly broke the deadlock on 55 minutes when the Manchester United man’s stabbed, defense-flummoxing cross was poked wide by his bleach-blond team-mate.
Kagawa, operating on the left, was denied by hard-working Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski and then bounced a shot off the angle between the right post and the crossbar.
Zaccheroni brought on defender Yuzo Kurihara as a stalemate beckoned. But shortly afterwards, Oar silenced the massed Japanese fans when his cross from the left spun over Kawashima and crept in on 82 minutes.
Japan were staring at a cruel defeat but as the clock ticked to full time, Honda’s cross was parried by McKay’s arm. The blond CSKA Moscow talisman stepped up to ram the penalty past Schwarzer, who dived to his left.
“I think we performed better. We deserved a win. But as usual, something unexpected happened. But my players had a strong feeling to fight back,” said Zaccheroni.
Japan are now through to their fifth straight World Cup since making their debut in 1998, and with a high-quality side which will look to build on their run to the last 16 four years ago in South Africa.

Australia have two games left to make sure of reaching their third World Cup in a row. The Socceroos, now level on points with second-placed Jordan, host the desert kingdom next week followed by Iraq on June 18.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
0

‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”