TIANJIN, China – Japan’s Olympic campaign got off to a disappointing start Thursday as Yasuharu Sorimachi’s side suffered a 1-0 defeat to the United States at the Beijing Games.
Stuart Holden struck the decisive blow, hammering home early in the second half to give the U.S. the points in energy-sapping conditions at Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium.
“I am disappointed with the defeat because all the players did not display their full potential,” said Sorimachi.
“I think the reason we lost is because physically we were inferior. We already have a plan for our next coming two matches and we will prepare and do our best to get three points,” he said.
Japan had slightly the better of a pedestrian first half, and a neatly worked corner routine almost paid off on 21 minutes, Atsuto Uchida sending a low ball into the danger zone only for Masato Morishige to scuff horribly wide.
A crucial interception from Marvell Wynne prevented Hiroyuki Taniguchi from getting on the end of Uchida’s pass toward the end of the first half and Taniguchi again went close with a header moments later.
Freddy Adu had earlier shot narrowly over midway through the half, and it was the Americans who made the breakthrough just after the break.
Japan captain Hiroki Mizumoto deflected Wynne’s rightwing cross into Holden’s path and the midfielder’s powerful drive went under Shusaku Nishikawa’s body and crept over the line.
Sorimachi brought on Tadanari Lee and Yohei Toyoda to inject some pace into Japan’s attack but, despite a spell of late pressure, they were unable to make any inroads.
“If I had the answer to our problems in front of goal I would fix them right away, and finishing is something that we have to work on,” said Sorimachi.
Mizumoto added: “It’s very disappointing. We tried to stay focused, but timing-wise the goal really hurt us. But there are two games left and we are still in with a chance.”
U.S. coach Peter Nowak, meanwhile, was naturally delighted at kicking off the Olympics with a win.
“This kind of game, especially the first of the Olympics, is tough. My boys put up quite a fight and I am very proud of them,” said Nowak. “First Olympic win and there is nothing better than that.”
European Under-21 champions the Netherlands were set to play Atlanta Games gold-medalists Nigeria in the other Group B game here later Thursday.
Japan plays Nigeria on Sunday before wrapping up its group campaign against the Netherlands on Wednesday.
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