LUCA BIANCHIN / AIPS in SHARJAH: The Japanese lab continues to receive awards of excellence.

Friday, in their opener at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup UAE 2013, Japan overcame Russia and impressed with a tiki-taka style, as if Kosei Uryu and Kento Misao were born in Barcelona rather than Tokyo.

For the second game against Venezuela coach Hirofumi Yoshitake changed eight players, including the whole midfield and attack.

His players capitalised on the opportunity: Japan outscored La Vinotinto 3-1, showing  pace and huge intensity. Taro Sugimoto was the first to put his name on the scoresheet shooting from around the penalty spot after a brilliant team action.

Venezuela, playing this World Cup without young stars Andres Ponce and Ronaldo Pena, reacted with pride and equalised in the 17th minute.  The Japanese defenders allowed Jose Caraballo to convert a cross by Eduardo Maceira into his first goal of his tournament.


However, the minutes before halftime proved the most important of the game. A brilliant defensive action by Diego Osio prevented Masaomi Nakano shooting, Koto Abe saved near the goal line and captain Ryoma Watanabe made it 2-1 after another team effort.

The second half was mostly a blue procession: Japan scored a third goal with a Watanabe’s penalty in the 78th minute and dominated the remainder of the game.

Forward Yushi Nagashima, who arrived with 15 minutes to go, missed a couple of clear opportunies but the Venezuelans were never able to push forward to score even a second goal.

After the final whistle, the Japanese squad greeted their fans with a team bow: with two wins in two games, they have qualified for the second stage already. The game against Tunisia, in Sharjah on Thursday, will decide whether the Samurai conclude Group D in first or second place.

# # # # # # #