日本 (Japan) 2 フランス (France) 1

(As featured at the excellent Kick Off Asia)

Football has been described as many things. A multi-layered strategic contest in which smaller tactical games play themselves out across the pitch; warfare on a standardised battlefield, kit a replacement for military uniform, teams and supporters loyal to flag, insignia and anthem, managers assigning duties as would a general with his troops, military language synonymous with sporting vernacular; tribalism, cult, myth and religion, indoctrination into rites sacred or profane, fan(atics) singing songs in veneration of idols and gods past and present, superstitious rituals practised and performed to exacting standards day after day, week after week. It can be said also that it is a game of moments. An unforced, misplaced pass, an ill-timed tackle, a failed attempt to punch clear, a substitution and a tactical switch, a swing in momentum, these moments collectively may come to define the match, but singularly – and sometimes, admittedly, unfairly – equally they may come to define a player.

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日本 (Japan) 1 モロッコ (Morocco) 0

The Samurai Blue began their London 2012 Group D match against Morocco almost unchanged from the side which defeated Spain, Gotoku Sakai replacing the injured Hiroki Sakai at right-back, and again they won by a single goal as they qualified for the last eight of the competition with a game spare, but here the similarities ended as Japan were unable to re-produce the level of performance which led to such a memorable result in Round One. Takashi Sekizuka’s side were second-best for a significant period of this contest to an Atlas Lions team in which Zakaria Labyad, Abdelaziz Barrada and Nordin Amrabat excelled, and they were fortunate to claim victory as only a combination of poor finishing, Shuichi Gonda’s commanding performance in goal and some last-ditch defending prevented Morocco from leaving Newcastle with at least a draw.

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スペイン (Spain) 0 日本 (Japan) 1

(As featured on Kick Off Asia)

Round 1 in Group D of the Men’s Olympic football tournament could barely have produced a more favourable outcome for Japan, as the Samurai Blue deservedly beat a heavily favoured Spain 1-0. Takashi Sekizuka’s men made history in the process with their first victory against Spain at any level of competition, while Honduras and Morocco produced a highly entertaining 2-2 draw to leave Japan at the top of the standings, with the Atlas Lions guaranteed to be missing first-choice Lens defender Zakarya Bergdich for their encounter with Japan at St James’ Park on 29 July after he was sent off.

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名古屋グランパス (Nagoya Grampus) 0 ベガルタ仙台 (Vegalta Sendai) 0

In a tight, tactically interesting affair light on entertainment, Nagoya Grampus limited their own attacking instincts and shackled Vegalta Sendai to record their first goalless draw of the 2012 campaign at the Toyota Stadium, and prevented Makoto Teguramori’s men from scoring for only the third time this season.

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J.League Division 1: Matchday Sixteen Round-up

Japan Under-23 national team player Kensuke Nagai continued his excellent form of late, scoring his eighth goal in sixteen J.League appearances and his sixth in four as his late equaliser at the Nissan Stadium gave Nagoya Grampus a share of the points against Yokohama F-Marinos. Having contributed more than a third of Grampus’s goals in Division 1 this season, his presence could be sorely missed during the London 2012 campaign, the 23-year old guaranteed to be absent for ties with Consadole Sapporo and Vissel Kobe, and depending on the progress of the Under-23 Samurai Blue, may also be unavailable for the 11 August fixture with Shimizu S-Pulse.

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セレッソ大阪 (Cerezo Osaka) 1 浦和レッドダイヤモンズ (Urawa Red Diamonds) 1

Yoichiro Kakitani deservedly equalised in the first minute of stoppage time to save Hiroshi Kiyotake from the least enjoyable of departures. With former Cerezo great and recent Manchester United signing Shinji Kagawa an interested observer at the Nagai Stadium, Kiyotake left the field in the 81st minute to rapturous applause, frustrated at having been unable to help his teammates level the scores. Cerezo had been the match of an Urawa Red Diamonds team which began the day eleven places ahead, but it was a flurry of late substitutions from Sérgio Soares which finally produced the merited equitable outcome in the game’s final minutes, most particularly that of Branquinho who replaced the FC Nuremberg-bound midfielder in the 81st minute.

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名古屋グランパス (Nagoya Grampus) 2 ジュビロ磐田 (Jubilo Iwata) 0

Two defensive lapses either side of the half-time break handed Jubilo Iwata their second consecutive defeat, goals from Jungo Fujimoto and Kensuke Nagai giving a competent but uninspiring Nagoya Grampus team the three points, and delivering a jolt to any championship pretensions the Shizuoka Prefecture side may have. Compounding Jubilo’s difficulties was the early enforced substitution of goalkeeper Naoki Hatta, damaging a finger after colliding with teammate Yuichi Komano inside seven minutes, and after lengthy treatment for what appeared to be either a dislocation or break, saw him replaced by Akihiko Takeshige, whose contribution would prove critical to the outcome of this contest.

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