Japan make a point over disallowed goal
Japan - 2 Belgium - 2:Japan made a minor piece of history yesterday when they picked up their first ever World Cup point. It should have been their first win.
The co-hosts can claim to have had a perfectly good goal disallowed with five minutes to go, when the referee ruled that Junichi Inamoto had fouled Eric van Meir while dispossessing him in the area before turning a shot past the goalkeeper.
The TV replay confirmed what the majority of the crowd already knew: the goal should have stood. "I don't know where I was supposed to have committed the foul," the Arsenal reserve said later.
Inamoto was the engine that drove Japan and he even managed to put them ahead in the 67th minute, when he beat off the defence to fire into the roof of the net. "We achieved our minimum target of one point, but we gave away a silly goal after going up 2-1 so we know we can still get better," he said.
"I know (the Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger is in Japan and was probably watching, so I'm glad to show him what I'm capable of."
Japanese spirits were high afterwards, with the coach Philippe Troussier praising his players. "Everybody thought our team would have been paralysed by the event," he said. "We got this result because of our offensive qualities."
Belgium can count themselves lucky to take a point despite taking the lead through their captain Marc Wilmots. It was only then that Japan got into gear and responded. Their equaliser came from a long pass out of midfield, Takayuki Suzuki motoring through the defence to stab the ball home. That was the signal to spark Japan and the crowd into life, with Inamoto and Hidetoshi Nakata responsible for disrupting the Belgian midfield.
They duly took the lead through Inamato's goal but less than 10 minutes later Peter van der Heyden ran through a line of defenders to lob the ball over Seigo Narazaki for the equaliser.
While there is no doubting Japan's ability under Troussier, who took South Africa to France '98, he is well aware of his defence's frailties. He will now have to weave his magic if Japan are to make it to the last 16.
Wilmots paid tribute to the Japanese afterwards. "They came back really well. They had a good match, physically they were strong," he said. "We could have scored two or three goals in the first half but their goalkeeper made a good save and the defence made some good blocks."
Japan: Morishima for Suzuki (68 mins); Miyamoto for Morioka (71 mins).
Belgium: Sonck for Walem (68 mins); Strupar for Verheyen (83 mins)
Japan: Toda, Inamoto.
Belgium: van der Heyden, Verheyen.