KAWASAKI — Japan isn’t ready to give away its world championship berth to any other country in Asia.
Japan scored 10 touchdowns and two field goals to rout South Korea 76-0 on Saturday at Kawasaki Stadium in the Asian qualifying game for the fourth IFAF Senior World Championship, which will be held in Austria this summer.
With the victory, Japan earned a berth to the International Federation of American Football’s Senior World Championship for the fourth time and become the only nation to qualify for all four championships.
South Korea, which represented Asia when Japan was the host of the competition in 2007 in Kawasaki, failed to make back-to-back appearances.
“My players were in good shape despite the short period of preparation (time) and that showed in their responsibility and pride as Japan national team members,” Japan coach Kiyoyuki Mori said.
“We could make the in-game adjustments against the opponent we don’t know well. We had some mistakes in the fourth quarter and we found our issues to get resolved before the world championship starts.”
According to the Japan American Football Association, Japan and South Korea are the only countries in Asia that play organized American football. Saturday’s game result indicates South Korea will need some time to catch up with Japan.
“We knew there is a big gap of football level between Japan and Korea,” said Tatsuhide Fukuda, who coached the Korean team for this game, which was also called the first Asian Championship. “We could’ve played so that we had a smaller margin of the score. But playing conservatively will not help football in Korea develop in the future. We decided to go aggressively.”
The Koreans played just like Fukuda expected. Although it was a blowout and Japan dominated in almost all phases of football — rushing, passing and tackling — Korea played aggressively and executed a couple of trick plays. A fake punt in the second quarter gave the Koreans a first down and helped produce their longest drive.
In the third quarter, Korea used a 35-yard flea-flicker pass by wide receiver Kim Chang Soo to fellow receiver Ha De Bo, which turned out to be the longest play from scrimmage by Korea. But too many missed tackles and turnovers cost the visitors the game.
Japan got off to a good start when Ken Shimizu returned the opening kickoff 89 yards to Korea’s 6-yard line, setting up Takuya Furutani’s 3-yard touchdown run.
Japan wasted no time to score more points in the four-touchdown first quarter. Takeshi Miyake blocked a punt by Choi Kyung Ho on Korean’s first possession and returned it 45 yards for a score. Then linebacker Shoichiro Suzuki picked off a pass by Jeong Tae Seong on the first play of Korea’s second drive. Three plays later, Shun Sugawara hit Naoki Maeda with an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Japan forced Korea to punt on its next possession and Maeda returned it to Korea’s 1 to set up Yasuhiro Maruta’s scoring rush, increasing the lead to 28-0.
Japan, which trounced South Korea 88-0 in the qualifier in 2003, never stopped scoring, adding 17 in the second quarter, 21 in third and 10 in the final period. It alternated three quarterbacks and each threw at least one touchdown pass. Starter Sugawara had one and reserves Tetsuo Takata and Minoru Tono both had two. Japan outgained Korea 505-126 in total offense.
Defensively, Japan made four interceptions and two forced fumbles, giving up only five first downs in the game. Kicker Daisuke Aoki made all 10 extra-point kicks and went 2-for-3 in field goals to earn the game’s MVP honors.
The IFAF World Championship was launched in 1999 in Italy. Since then, the IFAF has held the championship in 2003 (Germany) and 2007 (Kawasaki). Japan won the first two championships before losing to the United States, which made its world championship debut in 2007.