LE LAVANDOU, FRANCE – Japan’s Olympic team collapsed on defense again as Takashi Sekizuka’s side failed to reach the semifinals of the Toulon Tournament following a 3-2 defeat to Egypt on Sunday.
Japan bowed out of the pre-Olympic competition earlier than it would have liked as Egypt scored a late winner to pin the young Blue Samurai to the bottom of Group A after the Netherlands beat Turkey 1-0.
The Dutch and the Turks went through as the top two finishers in the group.
New Hoffenheim signing Takashi Usami struck twice for the Japanese, who conceded all three goals from set pieces.
Japan gave up a total of seven goals in its three group matches, which does not bode well for a team trying to medal in London this summer.
“We have to face up to the reality that we couldn’t get out of the group,” Sekizuka said. “All the goals we conceded were from set pieces and that’s something we’re going to have to correct.
“We found out a lot about ourselves through the three games, which was good, but we wanted to play as many games as possible while we were here.
“We were determined so this result is pretty disappointing.”
Added Usami: “It’s not like our opponents tore us apart but that’s the way it goes in tournaments sometimes; all it takes is a couple of weak goals to get knocked out. It was difficult for us.”
Sekizuka stocked his faith into the team that defeated the Netherlands 3-2 two days ago, changing only left-back Yusuke Higa for Stuttgart’s Gotoku Sakai who sat out the last game due to injury.
Victory would have automatically secured Japan its passage into the last four and it was never outplayed by Egypt. Japan, though, went down in the 32nd minute after a bit of clumsy defending.
JEF United Chiba man Kazuki Oiwa backpassed amid congestion in the penalty area to goalkeeper Yuya Ando, who caught the ball to award Egypt a free kick just outside the six-yard box.
After the tap by Shehab El Din Eldin, Ahmed Eid hit the back of the net with authority to push his team in front.
The Egyptians doubled their lead two minutes to halftime when Marwan Mohsen scored from point-blank range after a free kick by Hesham Mohamed.
With their backs to the wall, the Japanese came out running after the break and Usami pulled his team within one less than a minute into the second half, pouncing on a ball from substitute Yuki Otsu.
Usami made it 2-2 just eight minutes later, scraping home a deflection from a free kick to resuscitate Japan’s semifinal hopes.
Yet seven minutes to time, Sekizuka’s side again faltered with the ball dead, conceding the deciding goal to Egypt as Salah Souliman nodded in an Ali Fathy free kick from the right wing over defender Kazuya Yamamura to eliminate Japan.
“We’re going home earlier than we would have liked this time, but it can’t happen at the Olympics,” Sakai said. “Personally, I’m aiming for a gold medal and I certainly hope that’s where we set our sights as a team.”