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.

Historic rivalry set as Japan heads to North Korea for the first time in 22 years

There are no noisemakers and no one does the wave, yet football fans in North Korea are passionate in their own way about the team that has become a symbol of national pride.That pride will be at stake Tuesday when North Korea faces Japan at Kim Il Sung Stadium in a much-anticipated World Cup qualifier that promises to be about far more than just football.Four of the North Korean players, including star striker Jong Tae Se, were born into ethnic Korean communities in Japan, and bitterness still runs deep over Japan’s 35-year occupation of Korea, which ended in 1945.

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Matsuda loses fight for life after heatstroke

Former Japan international Naoki Matsuda, who suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest during training on Tuesday, died Thursday. He was 34.

The 2002 World Cup defender had been in a critical condition after collapsing Tuesday during practice with Japan Football League club Matsumoto Yamaga.

The 34-year-old Matsuda collapsed with suspected heatstroke after a warm-up run on Tuesday morning but was later confirmed to have suffered cardiopulmonary arrest. He was unconscious on his arrival at hospital and showed no response to heart massage.

Read the rest of the story: Soccer: Former Japan defender Matsuda loses fight for life.

Japan at the Womens World Cup

Meticulous planning and execution are everything in Japanese soccer. So when the team falls behind, there is a system to rely on, a belief there is still a way to win.Japan is in its first Women’s World Cup final, and its quick passing could pose a challenge for the favored United States on Sunday.Coach Norio Sasaki has been planning for this moment since the 2008 Olympics.

Read the rest of the story: Courage, fortitude key Japan at Womens World Cup – World Soccer.

Japan beats Sweden 3-1 for place in final of World Cup

Homare Sawa made up for a huge error by scoring the go-ahead goal and Japan advanced to the World Cup final with a 3-1 victory over Sweden on Wednesday.Surprise starter Nahomi Kawasumi had two goals for Japan, which will face the United States in Sunday’s championship. It’s the first World Cup final for the rising soccer power.Kawasumi had just played 29 minutes in the tournament before coach Norio Sasaki started her in Japan’s biggest game ever.“She is very tough and fit,” he said. “I didn’t ask her to score two goals but she did an excellent job.”

Read the rest of the story: Japan beats Sweden 3-1 for place in final – World Soccer.

England beats Japan 2-0 in Women’s World Cup

England turned the threat of first-round elimination into Group B victory with a 2-0 win over Japan to reach the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.

After a lackluster first two games, England was spectacular in its decisive game. After 15 minutes, Sophie Bradley sent a deep ball from her half toward Ellen White, who forward spotted goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line. She let the ball bounce once and lobbed it over Kaihori with exquisite precision from 21 meters out.

In the 66th, England came up with a second good goal, when Rachel Unitt shrugged off several Japanese defenders to set up substitute forward Rachel Yankey for a delicate chip and the insurance goal.

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Japan reaches quarterfinals at World Cup

With a perfect two victories out of two matches, Japan has reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup with flair and a tournament-leading six goals so far. England was saved by a fighting performance to earn another day at the tournament.

Homare Sawa got the World Cup’s first hat trick to lead Japan past Mexico 4-0.

For England, gangly midfielder Jill Scott was just as important with a goal and an assist to resurrect England’s campaign with 2-1 win over New Zealand.

It gave Japan 6 points, two more than England, whic

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Japan’s feverish bid for upcoming World Cup

Just a week after the din of celebratory vuvuzela horns died down in South Africa, fresh World Cup fever is gripping nine candidates battling to host the showpiece in 2018 or 2022.

The sport’s world governing body FIFA on Monday kicks off a two-month inspection tour of Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands-Belgium, Russia, England, Spain-Portugal, the United States and Qatar in that order.

The first stop, Japan, is counting on its impressive organizational, financial and technological power to win the 2022 event. It co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea after staging one summer and two winter Olympics.

Japan has promised to treat football fans worldwide to ultra-realistic live three-dimensional broadcasts of matches.

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World Cup – Japan Misses Victory by Inches

The face of defeat was red, the eyes wet, the gaze downcast. Yuichi Komano made a slow, sad walk through a media gauntlet behind Loftus Versfeld Stadium known as the Mixed Zone.

But there was nothing mixed about his emotions. Komano was distraught, a Blue Samurai too blue to speak, looking as if he’d let a whole nation down.

The Japanese defender’s penalty kick against Paraguay slammed off the crossbar, the only miss in the 2010 World Cup’s first overtime shootout. The South Americans advanced to the quarterfinal, 5-3 on PKs, their Cinderella story intact, while Japan’s wonderful run was halted by mere inches.

Read the rest of the story: Japan gave its nation reason to cheer

World Cup – Takeshi Okada predicts a battle between Denmark and Japan

Japan coach Takeshi Okada has predicted a big, bruising battle against Denmark on Thursday, demanding something special from his players to stay alive in the World Cup.

Japan need only a draw to reach the last 16 as they have a better goal difference than Denmark, although the two sides are level at three points in Group E.

The Netherlands are already assured of advancing having won both matches in the group.

Read the rest of the story: Japan coach predicts bruising match against Danes