Nakamura sends Japan into raptures
In the most exciting match so far of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005, Japan edged past USA with a thrilling 3-2 victory. The win takes Japan level on points with Portugal at the top of Group B, with one game left to play on Tuesday.
"We won today because of the determination and collective will of the players," said the delighted Japan coach Ramos Rui after the game. "We knew it was going to be a really tough battle, but we also knew that we had to win to stay in the competition. I'd like to pay tribute to the support we received from the Brazilian public tonight - it was absolutely fundamental to help our tired legs at the end."
With Thailand's defeat eliminating them minutes earlier, Japan's win keeps an Asian representative in the competition. The States now face the prospect of having to beat Madjer and co. to tie the group and leave them in with a chance of the quarter-finals.
Both coaches were born in Rio and their teams have benefited from their rich beach soccer experience. Both, though, have made their home where they coach - with Japan coach Ramos Rui even becoming naturalised and playing a pivotal role in their national football side in the 1990s.
The USA team started with Fischer, Benny, Gyau, Chris and the captain Francis while Japan fielded Kato, Yoshii, Kuroki, Takara and Toma. The first period was tight, but USA held the advantage thanks to Benny who shot home after he had hit the post moments earlier.
The advantage swung in the second period - Japan going 2-1 ahead before being pegged back to 2-2. First Kawaharazuka crossed from the left, and while it appeared Benny would cut it out, the ball squirmed through to Kuroki who planted it past Fischer. The States' keeper was beaten again by Toma's free-kick which despite being poorly struck, bounced off the sand to hand the advantage to Rui's men. But the North Americans hit back when Chris slipped the ball to Edy who turned it in from close range. Gyau could have given them the lead as he sprinted clear on the break but his fierce left-footed drive flew across the face of the goal.
In a tense finale it was Japan who got the vital winner - Nakamura shooting high into the roof of the net for 3-2. The States desperate attempts at an equaliser weren't helped by the blue card shown to Benny which left his team-mates a man down in the dying minutes. Despite Fischer venturing upfield to try to force extra-time, Japan held out to upset the odds.
Referees: Joao Alberto (BRA), Ivo Santos (BRA) and Carlos Robles (CHI).