SANDRA AIGNER / AIPS* in SHARJAH: If everything had gone according to statistics, Japan would have won their round of 16-match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE against Sweden.
After three wins in three matches the Asians were, besides Brazil, the only team still undefeated. Instead, a gaffe by goalkeeper Teimosii Shiroaoka provoked a bitter 2-1 defeat and elimination.
Japan made six changes this time around but the rising sun looked hazy in the first half.
Sweden started strongly. In the 13th minute they broke quickly and Erdal Rakip received a long pass and crossed from the left for Valmir Barisha to tap in from close range his third goal of the tournament.
Minutes later, the fans at the Sharjah Stadium witnessed the latest goalkeeping blunder. Japan goalkeeper Shiroaoka saved a shot but then spilled the ball so Sweden’s Gustav Engvall could scramble it over the line.
In the second half Japan brought on Hiroki Agawa . He provided the groundwork for a Swedish own goal scored by defender Linus Wahlqvist when trying to stop Agawa’s shot from going into the empty goal. But even though the Japanese showed a lot of fighting spirit and had 75pc of ball possession, they were not rewarded with many scoring chances and no more goals.
At the final whistle, the Swedish players celebrated their surprising win, leaving the Japanese in tears – especially their goalkeeper.
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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