Japan loses to Mexico in men’s soccer semifinal, heads to bronze-medal match with South Korea


The Japanese men failed to join the women’s team in the Olympic final as Takashi Sekizuka’s side lost 3-1 to Mexico on Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.

Japan will try again for their first Olympic medal in 44 years on Friday in the third-place match against South Korea.

Yuki Otsu opened the scoring for Japan in the first half, but Mexico struck three unanswered goals by Marco Fabian, Oribe Peralta and Javier Cortes to reach Saturday’s final.

Injured striker Kensuke Nagai had been doubtful for the match but forced his way into the lineup. He remained ineffective, though, in the first half when Mexico had 61 percent of possession.

Japan defeated Mexico 2-1 in a friendly in Nottingham a week before the Olympics started, but had been outplayed in that game before Otsu won it with a late acrobatic volley.

Otsu on Tuesday picked up right where he left off in the friendly, pushing Japan in front with another sensational strike in the 12th minute.

Taking a pass from Keigo Higashi just outside the box, Otsu found a moment of freedom before blasting into the top corner for his third goal of the tournament.

Japan’s lead, however, didn’t last 20 minutes as the Mexicans leveled in the 31st minute from a corner.

From the right flag, Giovani dos Santos curled for the near post for Jorge Enriquez, who glanced a header into the six-yard box before Fabian nodded home from point-blank range.

Five minutes past the hour, Mexico capitalized on a lapse in the Japanese defense to take the lead through Peralta.

Peralta won the ball off midfielder Takahiro Ogihara right after the feed from goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda and then proceeded to hit the back of the net for the deciding goal.

Substitute Cortes put the game out of Japan’s reach by netting in the third and final minute of injury time.