Italy Defeats Japan to Reach Confederation Cup Semifinals

Italy rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Japan 4-3 Wednesday, earning a spot in the Confederations Cup semifinals.

First-half substitute Sebastian Giovinco scored the winner in the 86th minute of an entertaining match at the Arena Pernambuco, pounding home a cross from Claudio Marchisio.
After a dismal start for the Azzurri that saw Japan score twice in the opening 33 minutes, Daniele De Rossi pulled one back with a header in the 41st. Japan defender Atsuto Uchida scored an own-goal in the 50th and Mario Balotelli converted a penalty kick in the 52nd.

Japan had taken the lead with a penalty kick by Keisuke Honda in the 21st. Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa doubled the lead for Japan in the 33rd after a defensive error.

Shinji Okazaki made it 3-3 in the 69th with a header.

The Azzurri moved even with Brazil at six points atop Group A. Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 earlier Sunday and also advanced courtesy of Italy’s win.

In the final round of group matches, Italy will face host Brazil in Salvador on Saturday, and Japan meets Mexico in Belo Horizonte.

Keisuke Honda Drives Japan to World Cup Qualification

Japan became the first side to qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil when playmaker Keisuke Honda scored an injury-time penalty to claim a 1-1 draw with Australia in a dramatic finale in Saitama on Tuesday.

The Blue Samurai dominated for most of the match but failed to convert that pressure into goals and Australia winger Tommy Oar looked to have made them pay when his 81st minute cross from the left looped over Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who flapped and failed to clear.

But the Japanese were not to be denied and they poured forward with the equalizer inevitably coming via Honda, who only arrived in Japan on Monday after helping CSKA Moscow to the Russian Cup on Saturday.

His cross was handled in the area by full back Matt McKay in stoppage time and the bleach blond attacker stepped up to leather the spot kick straight down the middle past Mark Schwarzer to send the crowd into raptures.

Arsenal’s Wenger to scout Japan for talent

Having seen the well of talent dry up in France, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has identified Japan as an emerging market to find new players for his Premier League side.

The Frenchman has built a strong reputation for plucking the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires and Emmanuel Petit from clubs in his homeland and turning them into world class players.

But Wenger, now in his 17th season with the 13 times English champions, has struggled to replicate the successful transfer dealings in recent seasons with Arsenal’s last trophy being the 2005 FA Cup.

Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh is set to move to West Ham United after becoming the latest to fail at Arsenal after joining from Girondins Bordeaux in 2010, with French defender Sebastien Squillaci also expected to leave this month.

Read the rest of the story: Japan new market for talent, says Wenger.

Soccer: US and Japan to face off at Olympics

Japan Soccer

Japan and the United States made it through the semifinals of the womens Olympic football tournament Monday, setting up a rematch of the World Cup final won by the Japanese just a year ago.Japan beat France 2-1 in London and the United States defeated Canada 4-3 in extra time in a thrilling match at Old Trafford in Manchester.

The U.S. will be going for revenge and its third-straight gold medal. Japan will be playing in its first Olympic final to try to show its World Cup win was not a fluke.

Read the rest of the story: US and Japan to face off again in Olympic final.

Olympics: Japan Reaches Semifinals with 3-0 win over Egypt

Japan advanced to its first Olympic semifinal in 44 years by beating Egypt 3-0 in the quarterfinals, giving it a chance to improve on the bronze it won in 1968.

“We are now in the position to challenge the world,” Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka said. “The team is getting stronger and stronger game by game.”

Japan will face Mexico in a semifinal at Wembley Stadium in London.

The match at Old Trafford in front of more than 70,000 fans was another solid display from the Japanese, who haven’t conceded a goal so far. They took the tournament by surprise by beating Spain in the first group stage match, and have carried that momentum all the way to the semifinals.

Read the rest of the story: Japan reaches semifinals with 3-0 win over Egypt in men’s Olympic football.

Manchester United unveils Kagawa at Old Trafford

Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa was unveiled at Old Trafford on Thursday following his high-profile signing with Premier League powerhouse Manchester United.

“I feel like the world is watching me. I want to change the pressure I feel about playing for a big club into joy, and show my ability on the pitch,” the 23-year-old Kagawa said.

In the photo , Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa holds his jersey during a press conference at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on July 12, 2012, as he was unveiled following his high-profile signing with Premier League powerhouse Manchester United, moving from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. To the right is Manchester manager Alex Ferguson.

Kagawa declines iconic No. 7 shirt

Manchester United new boy Shinji Kagawa is determined to make a lasting impact at Old Trafford following his move from Borussia Dortmund.

The 23-year-old was the subject of interest from major clubs from around the world after impressing this season for the Bundesliga champions. However, Sir Alex Ferguson moved quickly to secure the signing of the Japan midfielder.

Kagawa is now eagerly anticipating getting started for the Red Devils and insists he wants to carve out his own legacy at Old Trafford after turning down the chance to wear the famed No.7 shirt once donned with such distinction by George Best, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

United’s latest signing announced the decision in an impromptu press conference at Tokyos Narita Airport following a whirlwind trip to England.

In addition to a flock of journalists, the Japan international was greeted by 100 fans seeking autographs and handshakes.

“Ive just joined the team and havent accomplished anything yet,” Kagawa said after the 12-hour flight. “I want to make a name for myself [at United] on my own terms.”

Kagawa further elaborated that he had asked for a number with personal meaning, leading to speculation among Japanese media that the player could wear the 8, 26, or 29 he once wore at Cerezo Osaka, or the 23 shirt that brought him fame at Dortmund.

Despite the rigorous travel schedule, the Samurai Blue star still appeared excited after finally putting pen to paper on the move.

“The contract was as long as Id expected from a club [like United],” Kagawa laughed. “When I was at [Old Trafford], I thought about how incredible it would be if I could score there.”

Japan’s soccer team tougher than ever

Japan’s Blue Samurai have warned they are tougher than ever after surviving an epic Asian Cup quarter-final duel against hosts Qatar with Borussia Dortmund goalmachine Shinji Kagawa finally on target.

Kagawa bagged a brace to cancel out Qatar’s lead twice while defender Masahiko Inoha hit the winner on the stroke of stoppage time as 10-man Japan battled to a 3-2 victory.

Japan fired up when centreback Maya Yoshida received a second yellow card on the hour for an innocuous tangle with Yusef Ahmed and Fabio Cesar curled in the subsequent free-kick to put Qatar ahead 2-1.

"We felt down. So we told each other to look straight ahead and play," Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe said.

"Nobody gave up till the end. I really feel we have grown stronger mentally.

"We’ve got momentum and coming through a situation like that confirmed our mental strength," added the 27-year-old, who also skippered Japan to the round of 16 at the World Cup last year.

In the semi-finals on Tuesday, Japan will face either fellow three-time champions Iran or South Korea, which Hasebe called "one rank or two ranks higher" than Qatar.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s soccer team warn ‘We are tougher than ever’.

Maya Yoshida saves the day for Japan at Asian Cup

A 92nd minute goal by Maya Yoshida saved three-time champions Japan from a shock defeat at the hands of underdogs Jordan as the two sides drew 1-1 in their opening Asian Cup match Sunday.Hasan Abdel Fattahs shot on the stroke of half-time ricochetted off VVV Venlo defender Yoshida into the net to give Jordan the lead before the Japanese star headed home the equaliser as the clock ticked into stoppage time.It was a narrow escape for one of the pre-tournament favourites, who are eager to lift a record fourth continental title after losing to Saudi Arabia in the 2007 semi-finals."I am not satisfied with the result, especially in the first half," said Alberto Zaccheroni, who replaced Takeshi Okada as Japan coach after the Blue Samurai reached the World Cup last-16 in South Africa in June."We must accelerate the speed of our play. We failed to finish on chances," added the 57-year-old Italian."I expect other Asian teams will fight like Jordan. We must readjust ourselves with that in mind."Jordan coach Adnan Hamad said: "Our players played with confidence and a victory was possible. The result was not bad but sad."At the last minute, Japan managed to take points from us," added the Iraqi, who turned Jordans fortunes in the middle of qualifying and guided them to their second ever Asian Cup finals.

Read the rest of the story: Japan narrowly escape Asian Cup defeat to Jordan.