BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

The joy of the World Cup comes from emergence.

Emergence of a nation from the pack to be winners for sure but the tournament is peppered with victories and none of these were greater for my generation than Italia 1990 and Roger Milla. One could wax lyrical about the Lions that World Cup for days and still not have given tribute to the way the Cameroon team changed the way a continent was viewed from the Ethiopians of Band Aid to the man shimmying by the corner flag.

Cameroon are on the outside of a good number of lists of potential winners although The Ivory Coast and Ghana seem better placed to this observer nevertheless the Central Africans are here and mean business and one of them will emerge.

What of Japan though. South Korea emerged in the 2002 tournament which they co-hosted with Japan to the joy of much of the world of football and the island nation are a regular fixture on the global stage. The current crop from Japan are the second highest placed Asian qualifier in the world rakings – after Australia the presence of whom in the region’s qualifiers it is hoped will better prepare Japan for the different types of game they face every four years.

Japan struggle up front which is put down to a mixture of physical traits and bad luck with the current crop of front men not being well thought of. Yoshito ?kubo is given the striking role in a 4231 today but his five foot seven build and one in eight strike rate are not going to have Cameroon worried. The Africans are a physically large team with even Samuel Eto’o – treble winner with Inter this year – seeming big in comparison to his markers.

Cameroon make the early running with Japan looking to contain at least initially. The culture clash is a joy to consider. The Japanese need to play around the Africans and use what pace they have while Cameroon must ensure they can find bring brain with brawn and play through the midfield rather than resulting to the obvious ploy of a long pas and strength to try beat the back four none of whom top six foot.

The game is in keeping with a World Cup of worry where Japan defend well – Yuji Nakazawa proves a mobile defender capable of snuffing out any probing Cameroon manage – and are able to take the chance when it comes with the 24 year old Keisuke Honda finishing a deep cross after Stephane Mbia had lost the midfielder’s progress into the box and Daisuke Matsui had picked him out after cutting back from his right to left foot to cross from the right hand side.

It is very much the path to victory for Japan. Matsui would not have the power even if he did have the pace to get past the defender but his trickery is well judged and Honda gets the reward.

Mark Lawrenson on the BBC is telling us this game is boring as if all we want from football is goals but the attempts of Japan to snuff out and overcome a team so opposite to them is – to me – fascinating.

The second half starts to see Cameroon coach Paul Le Guin’s decision to field Eto’o on the wide right start to come to fruition with the forward bursting past three Japanese defenders and squaring for Eric Choupo-Moting who hits a rising shot that fades and slides wide. Pierre Webó starts to come into the game more but Cameroon only show no commitment to pushing the ball wide to Choupo-Moting and Eto’o and struggle to attack through the middle of the pitch.

Much of which is down to the closing down of the team from the Far East with Yuki Abe an extra man in the midfield charging at everything in a yellow shirt whenever the ball is near. Yasuhito End? provides the craft and the more Cameroon press full backs into that crowded central area the more vulnerable they are to his smart passing. The more Japan try defend the more they risk Cameroon meshing individual talents into a successful combination if only fleetingly.

Mohammadou Idrissou is thrown on as a target man – at six three in this game he is Peter Crouch – which seems to see the Africans put all their hopes into a breakdown of the organisation of Japan of a moment where physical strength is found wanting. Perhaps it comes when Idrissou benefits from a clearance that canons fortunately off his chest but Nakazawa cleans up. He and Marcus Tulio Tanaka – who both scored own goals in a warm up against England – have been superb putting in the best defensive display of the World Cup thus far.

Japan start to sit deep and allow defender Mbia the space to hit a long range effort that tests the resolve of the crossbar but bounces back. Japan break and Honda sees a low shot fielded weakly by Souleymanou Hamidou trying to pick up the ball and start a counter rather than smothering the ball. He is lucky in his scoop and fortune does not punish him.

It is typical of Cameroon’s mistake which has cost them the opening game on African soil. A mistake is born of arrogance assuming that a performance is not required to beat a nation they now see as weaker and coming up agianst a well drilled side who took the chance when it came.

It is an upset – the first of the World Cup – but a deserved one.

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