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FIFA World Cup: Japan register historic 1-0 win over Cameroon

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japan_score.jpgJapan created World Cup history today, registering their first ever win outside their own country by defeating Cameroon by a slender margin of 1-0 at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. The match wasn't any different from the trend in this edition of the FIFA World Cup, as both the teams struggled to create any attacking impression on either defence. A poor piece of defending from Cameroon cost them dear late in the first half as Keisuke Honda slotted the ball home from close range.

Cameroon went hammer and tongs in search of an elusive equalizer in the second half but the stubborn Japanese defence didn't yield an inch as the Asians held on for a famous win. A late strike at goal from right back M'Bia rattled the cross bar as Japan rode their luck. Cameroon missed a trick in the game as their inspirational skipper Samuel Eto'o played on the wide right of the attack. The Inter Milan striker was easily marked out of the game and had little to show for from the game. The Japanese are now second in Group E, behind the Netherlands on goal difference, who got the better of Denmark 2-0 in the early kick off.

Cameroon started with a three pronged attack with three times African Player of the Year Samuel Eto'o expected to provide the creative spark as he sat just behind the striker Pierre Webo. Alexandre Song, Arsenal's holding midfielder, was relegated to the substitutes bench while Makoun, Enoh and M'Bia took the combative positions in the Cameroon midfield. Japan on the other hand resorted to a 4-1-4-1 formation with the aim to stifle the African giants. Japan incidentally couldn't find a place for Shunsuke Nakamura, one of their real superstars.

The start was cagey as both teams looked to find their feet in their first match of the FIFA World Cup. The first attacking move came in the 9th minute when Samuel Eto'o threaded a pass to Webo, whose cross was a tad too pacey for Choupo-Moting to bring under control amidst close attention from the Japanese defence. Japan weren't far behind with their forays in Cameroon's half and preferred the right wing to launch most of their goal bound crosses. The game though was tentative with both sides looking to cut down errors than devote men to the opposition's half.

There was a visible difference in the defensive half of the two teams where Japan looked to clear the ball at every possible occasion while Cameroon seemed to play their way out. The African nation had the majority of the possession but had little to speak of from an attacking perspective. Both teams looked to use the wing play well as there was a liberal amount of crosses into the box, which were adroitly dealt with by the defence on either side.

samuel_etoo.jpgEyong Enoh had a decent shot on goal in the 38th minute but the Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima made no ‘Green-esque' error and held on to the ball safely. The Asian giants were soon engulfed in an unabated moment of revelry when Keisuke Honda turned in a goal in the 39th minute. It was yet another cross from the right wing from Daisuke Matsui that found Honda, who made no mistake in calmly slotting the ball home. It was poor defending from the African nation though as Bassong and N'Kolou both went for the same ball and gave Honda ample space at the far post.

The first half came to an end soon after with the game receiving a shot in the arm courtesy Honda's goal. The second half beckoned both teams with Cameroon needing to get Samuel Eto'o into the game to create some meaningful chances for themselves. Japan on the other hand could now afford to sit back, soak the pressure and hope to hit on the counter.

The second period kicked off with the intriguing prospect of Japan registering their first World Cup victory outside of Japan and Cameroon on the verge of their first opening day loss in their World Cup history. Samuel Eto'o came into his own in the 49th minute when he waltzed around a posse of Japanese defenders and laid a delightful ball for Choupo-Moting, who could only guide the ball wide off the target. Cameroon started brightly and looked sharp on the ball - passing it with quick one touch play.

It was perplexing though from the African giants on their insistence to put Eto'o on the right side of the attack. Especially when, the imposing frame of striker Pierre Webo was rendered ineffective by some tight Japanese marking. With the game nearing the hour mark, it was time for a change in personnel for the African nation and Achille Emana came on for Matip. Chances though were still at a premium for Cameroon as Japan continued with their dogged approach.

With each passing minute, Cameroon were feeling the pinch as the passes went astray and the player's frustration levels became all too evident. Japan on their part were not taking any chances and continued hacking the ball clear. Cameroon had to resort to long ball tactics towards the end as they weren't able to play the ball to the front three. The move almost seemed to pay in spectacular fashion when right back M'Bia's long range effort cannoned off from the frame of the goal in the 86th minute. Then Webo almost got the much awaited goal in added time but saw his effort tipped away by an acrobatic Kawashima in the Japan goal.

The match soon came to an end as Japan held on bravely to register a historic win. They now sit pretty in the Group E table trailing the Dutch on goal difference. It is now over to the next round of fixtures which would give a more concrete shape to the group and determine the fates of the four nations involved.

japan_win.jpg

Japan are now up against the Dutch on Saturday in a match where a win for either team would all but seal their passage into the last 16. At the bottom end of the table, Cameroon take on the Danish side (also on Saturday) where a loss guarantees an early exit. With all to play for in the next round of fixtures expect some hard fought battles as all four sides look to up the ante and stake their claim for a place in the last 16.

Cameroon would now need to chalk out some new strategies if they wish to create any impression on the Danes. Samuel Eto'o may well have to come more towards the centre of the attack if he is to avoid another 'invisible' display in a must win encounter. Japan on the other hand would need some intense training sessions to get their defensive setup just about right when confronted by a fluid Dutch attack. It would be a real challenge for the Asian side against a team that is one of the genuine contenders for the biggest prize of them all.

Teams:

Japan: Kawashima, Tanaka, Nakazawa, Nagatomo, Komano, Abe, Endo, Hasebe (Inamoto 88'), Matsui (Okazaki 69'), Okubu (Yano 81'), Honda

Cameroon: Hamidou, Bassong, N'Koulou, Assou-Ekotto, Matip (Emana 63'), M'Bia, Enoh, Makoun (Geremi 75'), Choupo-Moting (Idrissou 75'), Webo, Eto'o

Japan 1-0 Cameroon
Honda 39'

Check out the Points Table

Also Read: Netherlands 2 - 0 Denmark

Photos by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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