DAEJEON, SOUTH KOREA – Japan’s Under-20 World Cup campaign came to a halt in the round of 16 in a 1-0 loss to Venezuela after extra time on Wednesday.
Captain Yangel Herrera scored the lone goal of an unrelenting match in the second half of extra time for Venezuela, which booked its place in the quarterfinals where it will face either the United States or New Zealand on Sunday.
Ritsu Doan, who led Japan with three goals in the tournament, lamented his team’s performance in front of goal.
“We couldn’t score so this is on our attack,” Doan said. “I may have scored three goals, but we came here to win the competition. We need to learn from this tournament and build on it for the next one.”
Venezuela advanced to the knockout phase by winning Group B over Mexico, Germany and Vanuatu with the maximum points from three games and without conceding a single goal.
Japan, guided by coach Atsushi Uchiyama, was one of four third-place teams in the last 16, and had a few chances during normal time that it wasted.
In the 29th minute, Doan hit the bar with a free kick from 20 meters out. Yuto Iwasaki was first to the rebound but he too missed, firing wide left of the target.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Doan sent Akito Takagi through for an excellent opportunity from close range, but Takagi failed to beat goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.
Takagi was replaced by 15-year-old Takefusa Kubo in the 63rd minute. Japan, however, started to slow down midway through the second half and had to weather waves of pressure from Venezuela.
Even in extra time, the Venezuelans kept the Japanese on the back foot and the South Americans finally broke through in the 108th minute.
From the second of two left-wing corners taken back-to-back by Ronaldo Lucena, Herrera rose over the defense to nod home his first goal of the tournament into the bottom left corner, ending Japan’s adventure in South Korea, where it was trying to reach the last eight for the first time since 2003.
Uchiyama did not bother to mask his disappointment following elimination.
“It’s just disappointing,” the manager said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and it was, for 120 minutes, and the players gave it their all.
“We wanted to avoid conceding early and try to make a run at it in the second half, and I thought we had some decent moments. But with game management, you never know what you can do on the world stage until you actually get there.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.