The entire nation of Japan will start Wednesday in great mourning, as their brave soccer team is forced to return home after they lost in the cruelest of footballing ways. The nation of Paraguay, however, is getting ready for a party of the lifetime as their team celebrate their best World Cup showing ever. The match ended Paraguay 5, Japan 3 after penalties.
It was difficult not to feel for the Japanese players. They surprised many with their great performances at the World Cup and their valiant efforts won them admirers the world over. Tuesday afternoon at Loftus Versveld was no exception: they fought the Paraguayans for every inch of the field and in every second of the game. As the second half approached its mid point, there was a palpable feeling that this game would not be able to produce clear winners as both teams were matching each other’s efforts. The feeling was turned into reality as first regulation time and then extra time drew to a close.
Spare a thought for the players of any team that has to go through the Russian roulette of the penalty shots. And nowhere are the stakes, or pressure, higher than at the World Cup: watched by hundreds of millions, the whole nation’s success depends on the players’ every move. It is really difficult to perform at your best in moments like that. The Paraguayan players executed their penalties flawlessly, while Japan’s Yuichi Komano hit the crossbar on the third penalty, handing Paraguay the victory.
Even as they crash out of the World Cup, Japan can comfort themselves with having a bright soccer future. Paraguay, shortly after a match that tested them physically, mentally and emotionally, can look forward to meeting resurgent Spain on Saturday. It will be a true mountain to climb.
Paraguay: Justo Villar, Paulo Da Silva, Claudio Morel, Enrique Vera, Carlos Bonet, Nestor Ortigoza, Antolin Alcaraz, Edgar Benitez, Cristian Riveros, Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios.
Japan: Eiji Kawashima, Yuki Abe, Yuji Nakazawa, Tulio, Yuichi Komano, Yuto Nagatomo, Yoshito Okubo, Yasuhito Endo, Makoto Hasebe, Daisuke Matsui, Keisuke Honda.
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).
- 1st minute: Yoshito Okubo starts things off nicely with a powerful drive from 25 yards out that goes wide.
- 15th minute: Japan get a free kick, and the stadium holds its breath. The Japanese have been the most devastating side from set pieces in this tournament. No such luck for Endo’s take this time.
- 20th minute: Barios rolls on a pin in the penalty area and finds himself on a one-on-one with Eiji Kawashima. The Japanese keeper does brilliantly to deny Barios a goal.
That was as fantastic a piece of goalkeeping as you’ll ever see.
- 23rd minute: Matsui fires a dipping shot that completely foils Justo Villar, but strikes the upright. Paraguay live another day.
- 28th minute: Corner to Paraguay. Roque Santa Cruz gets the final shot off and misses.
- 32nd minute: Hasebe powers a cross into the Paraguayan penalty, looking for Matsui, but a defender gets in the way.
- 36th minute: Japan get a free kick in an excellent position after Honda is kneed savagely by Paulo da Silva. Yasuhito Endo takes it and bends it towards the far end of the penalty area, looking for Tulio. A defender gets to the ball first and prevents what was surely going
- 39th minute: Honda takes a quick shot and only just misses the posts. Villar didn’t see that one at all.
- 42nd minute: Japan get another free kick, but this time Endo can’t find the sweet shot.
End of the first half.
- 54th minute: Yuto Nagatomo’s shot takes a deflection and presents no problems for Villa.
- 55th minute: Paraguay break quickly and catch the Japanese defenders on the back foot; Edgar Benitez gets the shot off, but is blocked off by a Japanese defender.
Neither side is giving away anything. This game has extra time, and possibly penalties, written all over it.
- 57th minute: Daisuke Matsui gets a yellow card for handling the ball.
- 58th minute: Paraguay forge forward into the Japanese area, looking for gaps, but yet again cannot probe the Blue Samurai open.
- 58th minute: Christian Riveros chips a promising header in towards goal. Eiji Kawashima was perfectly placed and catches it easily.
- 59th minute: Nelson Valdez comes on for Edgar Benitez.
- 62nd minute: Tulio’s header takes a massive deflection and goes out for a corner.
- 64th minute: Lucas Barrios rises up to challenge for a cross but can’t direct the shot goalwards.
- 65th minute: Matsui comes off for Shinji Okazaki.
- 66th minute: Paraguay get a free kick from the very edge of the Japanese half. Eiji Kawashima rises up to challenge for the shot and completely misses it, partially because Tulio gets in the way.
The Replay shows that Kawashima’s knee caught Tulio in the jaw.
- 70th minute: Okazaki breaks on the edge of the Paraguayan penalty box and tries to fire in a low cross that gets cut off by a diving Paraguayan defender.
- 71st minute: Yuto Nagatomo gets a yellow card for pulling at Valdez’s shirt.
- 74th minute: Kawashima puts his body on the line again to punch away a dangerous free kick. He gets an elbow in the stomach for his efforts there.
- 75th minute: Nestor Ortigoza comes off for Edgar Barreto.
- 77th minute: Valdez drives a shot into the Japanese penalty area.
- 80th minute: Kengo Nakamura comes on for Yuki Abe.
- 82nd minute: Yoshito Okubo leaps an incredible distance into the air to challenge an air ball and barely gets beaten to it by Villar. Both the Paraguayan keeper and Okubo come down in an enormous tumble and prompt the medics to come out.
- 92nd minute: Tulio almost manages to put Japan one up with a stretched leg that just misses a ball 2 metres from the Paraguayan goal.
End of the second half, and we’re into extra time.
- ET 1st minute: Okazaki gets a header in from a corner and rather fluffs the opportunity. It looks like the ball took him by surprise and he merely flicked his head by instinct more than anything else.
- ET 4th minute: Roque Santa Cruz comes off and Oscar Cardozo comes on.
- ET 4th minute: A cross into the Japanese area is found by Barrios, who headers it straight into Kawashima’s arms.
- ET 7th minute: Valdez breaks away from the Japanese defenders and again fails to get the ball past Kawashima.
- ET 9th minute: Honda takes a free kick and Villar is almost unsighted by a Japanese player who dashes in as if to intercept the free kick.
- ET 11th minute: Edgar Benitez chips the ball cleverly over Kawashima, but chips it over the poles as well.
End of ET first half.
Keiji Tamada comes on for Yoshito Okubo.
- ET 17th minute: free kick to Japan, and it comes to nothing.
Nothing is happening. No, really. Nothing.
End of ET second half.
Photo: Japan players react as Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo scores the winning shot during a penalty shootout in their 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
We’re into penalties for the first time in the World Cup.
Paraguay win on penalties 5-3, after Japan’s Komano misses 3rd penalty.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Main photo: Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo (2nd R) celebrates after scoring the winning penalty after a penalty shootout in their 2010 World Cup second round soccer match at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci