The first draw of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 eventually proved enough for the USA to progress to the second group stage. It was a tremendously tense game - and even the final whistle didn't provide relief for US coach Keith Tozer's men, who had to wait on court for two minutes to hear their fate.
"That sure was a tough match - Japan are a great team who have improved as the tournament has gone on. We're relatively new to futsal so this is a great accomplishment for our team. We were carried by our great defence and keeper Brett Phillips. We're the underdog and my team now needs to rest and cherish this moment," Tozer said afterwards.
The US coach had been concerned that a Japan side who had lost both of their opening matches would be more relaxed for this one. Certainly Japan played with a free-flowing style but the USA matched them with their organisation and strength.
The goal which separated the sides at half-time came courtesy of a dreadful mistake by Japanese captain Kenta Fujii. Hesitating on the half-way line, he allowed Andy Guastaferro to nick the ball and run unchallenged to slot the ball past Hisamitsu Kawahara. The big Japanese keeper did well to get something on it but the ball trickled home.
Brett Phillips was preferred in goal for the States after his impressive display against Paraguay and he was often called upon to keep Kenichiro Kogure at bay - one particularly fine save with his feet in the second half proved vital.
Japan continued to make the prettier passing patterns, the US relying on their strength, running power and organisation. They should have doubled their lead early in the second half when Guastaferro strode forward, his shot seemed to be running perfectly into the path of Lee Tschantret but he somehow managed to turn it against the post from a yard out.
As the match wore on and the States bench looked increasingly harassed and Japan piled on the pressure. The US held out manfully, semi-circling their defenders like wagons around Phillips. They were breached once when Kogure turned in an Osamu Nambata cross-shot. But with news coming through of Paraguay's defeat, the tournament's first tied game was enough for the States to progress, and perhaps repeat their efforts the last time the World Championships were held in Asia - when they reached the final in Hong Kong 92.
Japan coach Sapo was full of praise for all aspects of his team except one - the finishing: "We played much better in this game especially in the second half. I couldn't ask any more of my players, I am very proud of them. It was just a shame we couldn't provide the end product for all our hard work."