By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An energetic, intense game between Japan and Italy ended with a 3-4 win for the Italians. Both teams were on the same level, fighting hard for the ball and creating chances by the minute, providing the spectators in Recife’s Arena Pernambuco with a spectacular match.
The atmosphere in Recife was great from the start, with singing and applause from the fans. The more than 40,000 spectators remained energetic throughout the match, doing several rounds of the wave and making a lot of noise, with a majority of the fans cheering from the Japanese side.
Displaying the skills that made them the first team from Asia to qualify for the World Cup in 2014, the Japanese were a lot more active than in their first game against Brazil.
After 21 minutes, a penalty was conceded to the Japanese when Juventus Turin goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, clashed with Shinji Okazaki. CSKA Moscow’s Keisuke Honda converted the penalty to a 1-0 lead for the Japanese.
As the match continued, the atmosphere inside the stadium intensified both literally and figuratively, with temperatures in the stadium reaching 29 degree celsius and seventy percent humidity.
At 33 minutes, Japan extended their lead to 2-0, as Manchester United’s midfielder, Shinji Kagawa, showed his skills and scored a spectacular goal, but Italy kept up and less than ten minutes later, the Azzurri (Blue – Italian national team) the Italians scored as well, as Daniele de Rossi headed the ball into the net after a corner kick from Andrea Pirlo.
Five minutes into the second half-time, Italy continued their swift advance. When Giaccherini passed the ball to Mario Balotelli alone in front of the goal, Japanese defender Uchida had no option left other than to intervene, deflecting the ball into his own goal and giving Italy its second goal to effectively equalize the game.
Only minutes later, an alleged hand ball by German outfit Wolfsburg’s Makoto Hasebe, gave Italy a penalty kick, which “Super Mario” then converted into Italy’s lead.
As the Italians receded to their half of the field, the Japanese advanced more and more. Just minutes later, Okazaki scored another goal for the Japanese after a free kick from Yasuhito Endo in the 68th minute. The match was tied at 3-3.
Chances for Balotelli and Hasebe followed and at the 81st minute mark, Okazaki hit the post and Kagawa, the crossbar right after. Although Japan had opportunities to score in the last few mintues, it was Italy’s Giovinco who scored the next goal, giving Italy the lead once again at 4-3.
Oshida made the Japanese cheer again towards the end, but he was caught offside and the goal was not counted. The Japanese were unable to turn any of their many opportunities into an advantage and have now been eliminated from the Confederations Cup. No possibility of moving forward to the semi-finals is left for Mexico either, as they lost their match against Brazil and Italy.
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