Japan keep Asian flag flying
Asian Beach Soccer is here to stay. At least that is the message Japan put across when they got their Group A campaign under way on Friday with a comprehensive 8-4 defeat of the USA. Following Bahrain's impressive showing on the opening day, the Japanese underlined the strength in depth of the Asian challenge as a partisan crowd cheered them to victory in Rio de Janeiro.
It was a proud Japan coach Hiroyuki Torikai who gave his response to the emphatic victory after the game: "There aren't many sides who play the sport in Asia, but this kind of result is sure to increase its popularity," he beamed. "We're still some way behind the big guns, but that won't stop us aiming high. Next up are Brazil and we need to be very strong mentally."
The major difference between the two sides was superior Japanese organisation, with the disciplined Orientals keeping their shape throughout and the USA relying almost exclusively on the individual skills of skipper Francis Farberoff.
It came as no surprise then when Katsuhiro Yoshi opened the scoring only one minute in, the prelude to a magnificent performance from the number 11 that he rounded off with a superb strike from his own half in the third period.
Roberto Ceciliano's side battled bravely to get back into the game but succumbed to their opponents' effectiveness in front of goal to trail 5-2 at the second interval.
With nothing to lose, the North Americans launched a series of increasingly desperate attacks in the final period only to find keeper Kazuo Ogawa and his subsequent replacement Shingo Terukina in inspired form between the posts. Content to hit on the counter, the Japanese killed the game off with some silky goals, none better than skipper Takeshi Kawaharakuza's delightful strike to round off the scoring.
Raphael Xexeo added to the USA's misery when he was dismissed in the third period.
The despondent Ceciliano was blunt about his side's efforts: "We were poor out there," he admitted. "The fact is we can't reproduce what we do on the training ground in match situations. We usually play an attacking game, as anyone who saw us in the qualifiers can vouch for. The pressure from the stands got to us today, and we looked lost out on the pitch. We're just not used to it. Simple as that." Next up for the Americans is a possible shot at redemption against Poland in two days time.
Referees: Vincenzo Cascone (ITA), Sofien Benchabane (FRA), Pedro Infantes (VEN)