Japan booked their place in the last 16 at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 with a 3-1 win in Morelia against a ten-man Argentina, who now face a nervy wait to see if their slim three points are enough to take them through as one of the top third-place finishers. The lively Japanese were firmly in control of the game from the early exchanges and in the end their short-passing style and technical panache won the day easily.
Argentina began the game sluggishly and even before they had time to settle into any kind of rhythm they found themselves a goal down. Naoki Kawaguchi raced up the right side, cutting into the area and firing a low shot from a tight angle that Argentinian goalkeeper Nicholas Sequeira failed to get a firm grasp on. Defender Daisuke Taikagi was on the doorstep and slammed the Asians into the lead with just four minutes on the board and with their first meaningful attack.
The Argentinians seemed to adjust quickly and had a pair of half-chances up the other end in short order, a header from Edgardo Barez and a sizzling shot from Lucas Ocampo. But the Japanese looked the far better team as the half progressed, and another defender, Naomichi Ueda, doubled their lead in the 20th minute when he rose highest in the penalty area to head a looping effort into the top corner of Sequeira’s goal. The fans were clearly on Japan’s side, too, cheering on the men from faraway East Asia.
Inside five minutes of the restart, Takumi Minamino was at work terrorising Argentina's defence again, his clever run into the area evading two defenders, but his shot couldn’t get past the Argentinian net-minder. Ocampos had a good chance at the other end seconds after, but his wicked shot from just outside the area flew inches wide of Ayumi Niekawa’s post.
The Japanese were hunting an insurance goal, putting heavy pressure on the Argentina rearguard. Minamino’s shot in the 61st minute had the keeper scrambling to keep it out. The South Americans' job got significantly harder in the 68th minute too, when Matias Montero was shown a red card for stomping on the sliding Hiroki Akino. The Japanese midfielder dusted himself down, shook off the pain and scored Japan’s third in the 74th minute, getting on the end of his own rebound after Sequeira’s bad day in the Argentinian net continued.
The one bright point in Argentina’s day came in the 87th minute when Brian Ferreira chipped the Japanese goalkeeper brilliantly from just in front of the midfield line to a roar of appreciation from the crowd. It was too little too late, however, as Japan are now through to the knockout rounds as Group B winners, after France and Jamaica drew in Monterrey in the final section game. The French will join them in the next round as runners-up while Argentina are unlikely to progress with their three points and Jamaica were eliminated after picking up only one point in their three games.