After receiving much criticism because of their less-than-stellar results the past few months, Japan’s national men’s football team earned a surprising 2-2 draw with the 2010 World Cup runner-up the Netherlands on Saturday in a friendly match in Belgium. The Samurai Blue actually had to fight back from being two goals down and played excellently in the second half, almost coming close to winning the match.
“They even could have made it 3-2. Fortunately for us, it didn’t happen,” said the Dutch coach Louis van Gaal. That would have been a stunning result for Japan, as they are ranked 44th in the world while the Oranje are 8th in the FIFA rankings. But even a draw was a great showing for the World Cup qualifiers, as statistics showed they outplayed their opponents, giving their own brand of the “intricate, sparkling play” that is oftentimes associated with the Dutch’s “total football”. It was the veteran players for the Netherlands, Rafael Van der Vaart and Arjen Robben, who scored their two goals early in the first half while the younger players who were tasked to defend had trouble controlling Japan’s star attacking midfielders and forwards.
A few minutes before the first half ended, Yuga Osako took a brilliant pass from captain Makoto Hasebe to put the ball past the Dutch keper Jasper Cillessen to make it 2-1. This was the first ever goal that Japan has scored against the Netherlands. The second half saw more impressive plays from the Japanese, with Keisuke Honda showing the crowd why he’s still a much-wanted commodity in European football, scoring the equalizer in the 60th minute. The introduction of Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa in the second half also showed even more creativity from Asia’s number one football team. Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, under fire of late due to several losses in friendly matches, said they “didn’t do bad” against one of the strongest European teams. They will next face Belgium, one of the rising stars in football, on Tuesday for another friendly match.
[ via Daily Mail ]