CARDIFF, WALES – The impressive journey of the Japanese men’s football squad at the London Olympics ended on Friday without a medal to show for as the national team lost 2-0 to South Korea in the bronze-medal match.
Arsenal striker Park Chu Young scored late in the first half and Augsburg’s Koo Ja Cheol added to the tally on the other side of halftime as Korea denied Japan what would have been their first medal in men’s soccer in 44 years.
The Olympic final between Brazil and Mexico is on Saturday.
The match at the Millennium Stadium proved to be as intense as expected as the two Asian rivals clashed for the first time since August last year.
Japan then coasted to a 3-0 victory in Sapporo but Korea — who were also playing for exemption from military service — were more than fired up on Friday, picking up three yellow cards in the first half alone.
It was ironic that the two goals Japan conceded both came at the expense of arguably their best player of the tournament, captain and central defender Maya Yoshida.
Yoshida made his first mistake in the 38th minute, misreading a long ball down the inside right channel and letting it bounce over his head.
Park latched on before swerving the defense to beat goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda by the near post for his second strike of these Summer Games.
The Koreans doubled their lead three minutes to the hour, Yoshida this time losing a challenge after a goal kick which Koo raced on to into the penalty area.
Koo did well to keep Daisuke Suzuki off his back before slotting home into the bottom left corner to open his Olympic account.