Honda brings “the power of dreams” to Japan

Japan 1-0 Cameroon

Japan: Kawashima, Nagatomo, Nakazawa, Tanaka, Komano, Matsui, Honda, Abe, Hasebe, Endo, Okubo.
Subs: Narazaki, Uchida, Okazaki, Shunsuke Nakamura, Tamada, Yano, Iwamasa, Kengo Nakamura, Konno, Morimoto, Inamoto, Kawaguchi.

Cameroon: Hamidou, M’bia Etoundi, N’Koulou, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Matip, Makoun, Enoh, Eto’o, Webo, Choupo-Moting.
Subs: Kameni, Rigobert Song, Alex Song, N’Guemo, Njitap, Emana, Bong, Chedjou, Idrissou, Mandjeck, Ndy Assembe, Aboubakar.

Japan recorded their first ever World Cup win on foreign soil by defeating Paul Le Guen’s lacklustre Cameroon side this afternoon. The goal came from CSKA Moscow midfielder Honda in a match largely uneventful apart from the Cameroonian M’Bia’s long range shot striking the woodwork. Throughout the match Paul Le Guen received criticism for his decision to play Samuel Eto on the right hand side. Rangers fans were entitled to breathe a sigh of relief as the shortest serving manager in their history lived up to their abysmal expectations.

Japan lined up with a traditional David Moyesesque 4-4-1-1 in an attempt to stifle Cameroon’s powerful midfield whilst also remaining efficient in possesion and able to launch swift counter-attacks. The Indomitable Lion’s proceeded with a slightly more ambitious 4-3-3 aiming to capitalise on the mobility of their forward line.

As each side walked out onto the Bloemfontein pitch the Vuvuzela’s rang aloud, immediately seasoning the pre-match rituals with a sprinkling of African flavour. The game promised much but in truth delivered very little.

The opening ten minutes of the game left much to be desired with each side, seemingly, reluctant to hang onto possession in defence too long for fear of making a mistake, or, in Tuilo Tanaka’s case, in fear of scoring another own goal.

“Nothing much to shout about yet” were the words of the BBC’s finest on seventeen minutes and other than the wondrous sight of Rigobert Song’s blonde hair and beard combination I had to agree. From catching glances at the stadium, it looked to very steep. You can tell that the action, at this point, was fairly uneventful. And when I say fairly I mean totally.

Half an hour arrived on the clock as the Japanese goal-keeper strained to catch a floated cross and landed painfully on his back. After a few minutes treatment he was ship-shape and ready to resume his position standing, uninvolved between the Japan sticks.

Hondaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! The blond-haired midfielder rifled the ball into the net from close range. The goal came after pinball in the Cameroon box which the defence was unable to clear, prompting the CSKA Moscow player to seize the moment and net his country’s opening goal of the tournament. Would this bring a smile from the stone faced Takeshi Okada? Well I think you already know the answer to that. Miserable so and so.

Half time descended like a cold blanket of optimism. We were forty-five minutes closer to seeing the likes of Spain and Brazil. Meanwhile, working order was well and truly restored at the BBC, Keisuke Honda’s name was pronounced wrong and Adebayor’s phone was resolutely switched off!

The second half began with the sides remaining unchanged. Eto still stranded on the right hand side, a position which he featured for Inter Milan on numerous occasions on the way to winning the Champion’s League.

A strong break from the right hand side saw Samuel Eto skipping past the challenge of three Japan defenders and pulling the ball back for Choupo-Moting who attempted a curving right-footed strike that sailed high and wide past the Japan post. One has to wonder whether, if Paul Le Guen had selected Eto as the central striker and Choupo-Moting was the one pulling back the ball to Eto, the outcome may have been a Cameroon goal.

Choupo-Moting again threatened with a menacing run on the left hand side. The yellow-booted player took the ball down the line before cutting inside with pace and spraying a daisy cutter unthreateningly out for a Japan goal-kick.

In other hair related news. Tottenham and Cameroon’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto sported an apparently fashionable pineapple look, to go with his skin tight yellow shirt. The man who once declared to not like football must be seeking to allow himself some entertainment in the job he finds dull.

A frivolous lack of goal scoring opportunities and a number of misplaced passes saw frustrations mount within the Japan team. An increasing number of shaking heads, hand gestures and *lots of loud noises* illustrated the feeling splendidly.

In an otherwise uneventful second half the Japan striker Okazaki hit the post from a rebounded effort but was rightly adjudged offside by the assistant referee. Action! We had action. M’Bia launched a crashing drive at the Japan goal but the crossbar was equal to the shot as it thundered back into play leaving Paul Le Guen frustrated and the Japan ‘keeper thankful.

Enter Junichi Inamota. Remember that guy? Arsenal, Fulham, West Brom and Cardiff certainly do. The midfield player was thrown on for the last five minutes in an unsurprisingly unambitious move with Japan wanting to keep possession.

Great work from Assou-Ekotto on the left handside resulted in a Japan clearance to which the referee duly obliged in ending the contest and allowing the Cameroonians to return to the dressing room and await a team talk from that tactical genius Paul Le Guen.

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