Asian Cup – Japan 2 Jordan 0: Japan Cruise into the Quarter Finals


Roy Hay

Few people really expected Jordan to beat Japan again in the Asian Cup. They did surprise the Blue Samurai in the last round of World Cup qualifiers it is true, but last night they struggled to get out of their own half for long periods. After going a goal behind in the 24th minute they were still pegged back, though their coach, Ray Wilkins, the former Chelsea star midfielder, must have given them a roasting at half-time. In the second half they started to send men forward in numbers but the chances they created were very few and some of these were the result of casual play by the Japanese defenders.

The waves of blue rolled over the Jordanians in the first half hour and the only puzzle was why it took till the 24th minute for the breakthrough to occur. Takashi Inui fed Shinji Okazaki and the striker fired over a cross shot which the Jordanian skipper and keeper, Amer Shafi, could only palm away and into the path of Keisuke Honda who  thumped it into the net. Four minutes later the Japanese captain Makoto Hasabe gave the ball away but Hamza Aldaradreh took far too long to get his shot away and the moment was lost.

Ray Wilkins was the king of the square pass. That is he passed the ball sideways far more than forward, but his Jordanian players were much more given to thumping the ball upfield in the air. It was the much derided Route 1 football in the first half. When they began to play in the second, they got more men forward but found the mobile Japanese defenders very hard to beat. If a threat emerged the Japanese would close down the Jordanians with two and sometimes three defenders.

Meanwhile the veteran midfielder Yasuhito Endo strolled around the park, as Wilkins used to do, but sending much more penetrative passes to his exciting forwards. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the fastest Endo ran all day was when he was substituted in the 87th minute. But he was a delight to watch while he was on the field. Some of the close ups of him and Honda standing over free kicks and working out what trick they were going to conjure up this time were side-splitting and I don’t speak Japanese.

It took Japan until the 83rd minute to add to its first half goal. Substitute Yoshinori Muto sprinted down the left wing and fired over a classic cross and Borussia Dortmund and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa put it away with no fuss. There was time for Honda to hit the post with another curling shot, the fourth time he has hit the woodwork in this tournament. One of these days he will really cut loose. Let’s hope it is not against Australia if the Socceroos get through their next match with China on Thursday.

Talking about China, after the game I had to find a quiet spot in Melbourne to talk to Vivian Tsi about the forthcoming game, but mainly about one of the previous encounters between the two countries way back in 1985. That was one of a series of three for an Ampol Cup. Australia lost in Beijing in 1984, won comfortably by 3–0 in Brisbane and took out the decider in Guangzhou in 1986 by 2–0. In the Brisbane game David Mitchell was the star, though he did not score himself. But it was his powerful headers which won the ball in the air and laid on the first two goals for John Kosmina and Oscar Crino. Wee Joe Watson got the third, but it is interesting that while the Chinese still complain that Australians are too big and physical, all the evidence now is that there is no difference in stature between the teams. Anyway Australia plays much more along the ground under Ange Postecoglou, though on the bumpy Brisbane pitch, which was just as bad in 1985, that may not be as easy as playing on the bowling greens in Sydney and Melbourne. We shall see.



  1. David Zampatti says

    Oh, is this thing still on. I thought we all went home after Australia got pantsed by, who was it, South something.

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    It’ll be tense up at Planet Mothra tomorrow night that’s for sure. I thought both of China’s wins had an element of luck. Being outplayed against the Saudis and then saving a penalty (that ball boy should be deported if they beat us tomorrow!) before two quite fantastic yet deflected goals against the Uzbeks. Zheng Zhi was a spud for Celtic when there yet he’s been one of their best players. They’re all ‘interesting’ quarter finals with Iran V Iraq obviously one many will have an eye on.

  3. Great stuff Roy.

    Japan’s goal difference would be scary but for Honda finding new and inventive ways to miss what should be regulation tap-ins so often.

    Dennis: spot on: Iran v Iraq has so many things going on beyond just being a Qtr final

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