Japan were knocked out of the Confederations Cup on goal difference tonight after a 2:2 draw with Brazil sent the world champions through to face Germany in Saturday’s semi-final.
The heroic last stand of the Japanese will go down as one of their finer performances of recent years however and but for a controversial offside call in the first half they might yet still be in the competition.
Going in to this game Zico’s men could have adapted the title of a James Bond film as their motto: ” A Draw is Not Enough”, knowing Brazil’s superior goal difference would take them through in the event of a tie. Thankfully for the 44,922 on hand in the Rhein-Energie Stadion, both sides gave good value for money with skilful play and top-notch goals in a game difficult to take one’s eyes off.
The opening exchanges saw Kaka, Ronaldinho and Adriano rev their turbo-charged engines with hints of things to come but Japan shocked probably even themselves by netting in the fourth minute. Mitsuo Ogasawara released Akira Kaji on the right and the flying wing-back hit the ball firmly into the corner for what looked a valid goal only for the referee’s assistant to hoist a late flag. TV replays would later show this was a far from conclusive call.
A minute later Adriano fired off his first salvo of the evening, hitting the side-netting from a Leo assist and soon the game assumed a frenetic end-to-end character. Any side that allows Kaka and Ronaldinho the space and time Japan did in the first half invites trouble and the inevitable goal arrived after ten minutes’ play. Ronaldinho set off on what would be several counter-assaults during the evening with only Robinho in support but soon found three teammates had swelled the attack …