DUBAI – Japan took revenge for its 2002 Asian U-20 Championship Final loss with a dramatic and improbable golden-goal victory over archrival South Korea to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.
Two goals from second-half substitute Daisuke Sakata, including a golden goal in the last minute of the first extra-time period, sent Japan through to the last eight, where it will now play the winner of the Brazil and Slovakia clash in Dubai on Friday.
The South Koreans took control of the match from the outset and Cho Won Hee should have given them the lead early on but failed to keep his header down and nodded harmlessly over the bar.
Up against a disciplined South Korean side and hindered by a cluttered midfield, Japan was only rarely able to show its trademark flair in the first 45 minutes. Some neat play between Hiroto Mogi and Yutaro Abe found Sho Naruoka alone in the box but his shot went wide of the mark after 33 minutes.
The South Koreans grabbed the lead five minutes later. Choi Sung Kuk stretched to reach Lee Jong Min’s sliced ball from the right and a toe was just enough as his flicked shot sailed up and over a woefully out-of-position Japanese ‘keeper Eiji Kawashima.
Wave after wave of South Korean attacks had Japan well and truly on the back foot and another goal looked to be on the way when captain Choi slipped in behind the Japanese defense with a lot of space, but the midfielder could only steer his chipped shot over the cross bar in the 74th minute.
Thoroughly uninspired for the lion’s share of the match, the Japanese somehow conspired to draw level.
Coach Kiyoshi Okuma looked every inch the tactical genius as his second-half substitute Sakata weaved through the Korean defense and kept his cool to slot the ball home on 82 minutes.
Sakata finished off the game in extra time when he collected a perfect through ball from Yasuyuki Konno and volleyed home extravagantly for his second goal of the match.
“I was not satisfied with the way my team was playing early on, especially in attack,” said Okuma. “But I knew as the match progressed we would improve and create chances.”
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