SHENYANG, China – Japan’s Olympic campaign ended with a whimper Wednesday as Yasuharu Sorimachi’s side went down 1-0 to the Netherlands in their final first-round match at the Beijing Games.
Sorimachi’s men came into the match looking to salvage some pride after defeats to the United States and Nigeria had eliminated them from the competition, but their misery was compounded when Gerald Sibon lashed home a late penalty to give the European Under-21 champions the points.
“We failed to get any points from our first game and that meant we had to go on the offensive, and I have no regrets about that,” said Sorimachi. “It’s just that we still lack composure around the penalty area.”
“I just hope at least one player from this group will go on to establish himself in the senior national team,” added the coach, whose Olympic squad did not include any overage players.
The Netherlands went through to the quarterfinals.
“We have come all the way from the Netherlands to Hong Kong, Qinhuangdao and Shenyang, and we are going to Shanghai (for the quarterfinals). But we hope to end up in Beijing (in the final),” said Dutch coach Foppe De Haan.
A cagey first half failed to yield a single clear-cut chance for either team in Shenyang although the Dutch got a fright in the 36th minute when Ryan Babel almost turned a Keisuke Honda corner past his own goalkeeper.
The game livened up after the interval, though, and the Netherlands twice went close from set pieces before Yohei Toyoda forced a smart save from Kenneth Vermeer and Masato Morishige rattled the woodwork for the Japanese from fully 30 meters.
However, it was the Dutch who prevailed after Sibon rifled home the decider from the spot 17 minutes from time, after Honda had pulled down Babel in the box.
“It’s such a shame that having played so well the (penalty) decision by the referee has led to this result,” said Honda.