A convincing 3-1 win over Venezuela from Sharjah Stadium has sealed passage to the Round of 16 for Japan. Tunisia also advanced to the knockout stages as a result of Japan’s U-17 FIFA World Cup UAE 2013 Group D win Monday night.
Japan looked comfortably in control from the early exchanges and Taro Sugimoto opened the scoring after only seven minutes. Ryoma Ishida sent in a cross that the Venezuelan backline should have done better to clear, but Sugimoto was on hand to capitalise on the defensive error from a few yards out.
But just as Japan seemed to be off to the races, Jose Caraballo responded ten minutes later with an equaliser. Venezuela’s No15 was first to the ball following a frenzy around Koto Abe’s goal that saw Jose Marquez miss two open chances. But Caraballo, made no such mistakes, calmly finishing when the ball made its way back into the area.
Sugimoto nearly netted his second in the 39th minute, but Beycker Velasquez was up to the task with a superb save, tipping the Japan striker's effort over the bar. Only a minute later Velasquez nearly surrendered a goal after he had trouble handling Kyoga Nakamura's strike from distance, but the Venezuela keeper did extremely well to scrape the ball away before it had a chance to trickle into the net.
Having controlled 69 per cent of possession during the first 45 minutes, Japan deservedly extended their lead before the break when Venezuela were caught off guard with a quickly executed counter-attack just 60 seconds before the whistle. Nakamura sent a delightful through ball to Tokuma Suzuki who then picked out an unmarked Ryoma Watanabe near the penalty spot. He made no mistake with his finish.
Japan came out flying after the restart with three early chances to extend their lead, but their efforts where just off target. Venezuela were desperate to get back into the match, but despite a chance just after the hour mark that was well saved by Abe and one effort that sailed over the crossbar in the 73rd, La Vinotino were never able to truly trouble the Japanese defence.
Japan put the game out of reach in the 78th minute when Watanabe buried a penalty into the corner after Juan Tineo's clumsy foul at the edge of the area. Velasquez then made a brilliant stop on Yuga Nagashima a minute later to keep the scoreline respectable. The victory means Japan and Tunisia join Brazil and Italy in the Round of 16, though one more set of matches in Group D will be played on Thursday when Japan take on Tunisia in Sharjah and Venezuela and Russia meet in Fujairah.