Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Japan’s Europe stars prove the difference in World Cup qualifier

Japan’s Europe stars prove the difference in World Cup qualifier

Japan’s Shinji Kagawa (No 10) celebrates a goal.
Japan’s Shinji Kagawa (No 10) celebrates a goal. AFP

Japan’s Europe stars prove the difference in World Cup qualifier

Japan's three eye-catching players in Europe, Keisuke Honda, Maya Yoshida and Shinji Kagawa, proved their unquestionable class by scoring a goal each in a totally dominant 3-0 home victory over Cambodia in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers at the well-filled Saitama Stadium yesterday.

Having nearly 80 per cent possession in this Group E encounter, Japan virtually pitched their tent in the Cambodian half, hardly allowing the visitors any leeway for even a mild counterattack .

Such was Japan’s stranglehold on the game that only once did a Cambodian player manage to get past the firewall, but eventually Kouch Sokhumpeak’s attempted header from the edge of the box fell safely into the hands of the goalkeeper.

That was to be the only positive for coach Lee Tae Hoon who was forced by the sheer star power of the opposition to employ ultra-defensive tactics with almost the entire side falling back to defend.

But for goalkeeper Sou Yaty’s heroics in fending off several sharp scoring attempts by Japan’s marauding strikers, the score would have been much bigger.

The victory came as a huge relief for manager Vahid Halihodzic, who had come under increasing pressure after highly rated Japan were held to an embarrassing goalless draw by Singapore at the start of the campaign in June.

The Bosnian, who took control of the Japanese national team earlier this year, had gone without a win in the last four competitive matches.

Japan travel in a joyous mood to Tehran in the next few days to meet Afghanistan on September 8, while Cambodia, having suffered their third straight defeat, return home to face Syria at the Olympic Stadium on the same day.

A visibly tense Halihodzic watched his side miss several opportunities to score in the early stages, often raising both his hands in sheer disappointment.

But approaching the half-hour mark, Italian Serie A star for AC Milan Keisuke Honda changed the complexion of the game, the manager’s demeanour and the mood in the stands with a thunderous strike with his trusty left foot.

Japan crossed over with that Honda goal, but within the first 15 minutes after the restart, Southampton’s Maya Yoshida and Borussia Dortmund striker Shinji Kagawa had produced stunning efforts to beat Sou Yaty.

Japan kept piling on the pressure, but somehow Cambodia managed to arrest the score-line, disappointing though it was in the end for both Lee Tae Hoon and the players.

H s Manunath

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon