TIANJIN, China – The Japan men’s soccer team was sent crashing out of the Beijing Games after a 2-1 defeat to Nigeria on Sunday.
Second-half goals from Victor Obinna and Victor Anichebe sentenced Yasuharu Sorimachi’s men to their second defeat of the tournament at Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium, shattering their hopes of giving Japan a first Olympic medal in 40 years.
Nigeria’s first win moves it onto four points from two games, one ahead of the United States, which was set to play European Under-21 champions the Netherlands later in the day.
Japan will now be playing for pride in its final Group B against the Netherlands on Wednesday.
“We have no regrets. We gave it everything we had,” said Sorimachi, who drew sharp criticism from local media for a number of surprising selections in his squad and can expect another mauling after Japan’s tame exit.
“The difference between us and the world level is speed. We are lacking in technique and the ability to make speedy decisions,” he said.
Japan dictated the early pace but lacked the quality required in the final third to hurt the Africans, who should have broken the deadlock on 29 minutes when Peter Odemwingie scooped over from close range.
Sorimachi’s men were guilty of wasteful finishing in their opening 1-0 defeat to the United States, with Masato Morishige and Hiroyuki Taniguchi the worst offenders.
And Taniguchi was once again holding his head in his hands for missing a sitter on 32 minutes. Michihiro Yasuda got in behind the Nigerian defense and delivered the ball on a plate, but Taniguchi’s shot lacked the purchase to trouble Ambruse Vanzekin.
Nigeria moved up a gear in the second period and Obinna smashed home the opener on 58 minutes, finishing an intricate four-man move started by Solomon Okoronkwo.
Japan nearly made an immediate response when Tadanari Lee’s shot was scrambled to safety but substitute Anichebe grabbed the second 16 minutes from time, controlling a cross at the far post and smashing past Shusaku Nishikawa from a tight angle.
Substitute Yohei Toyoda pulled one back 11 minutes from time in driving rain but it proved to be scant consolation.
“It’s a big pity for them (Japan) because they are now out of the tournament. They are young boys and they played really well,” said Obinna.
“It was a very difficult game for us today, much more difficult than the first game (against the Netherlands) because Japan are very hard working. But at the end of the game we were fortunate to be able to take our chances.”
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