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

If fear was the mark of the first games then this quarter final saw two teams gripped by that most negative of emotions.

The English going at Germany with injustice – since apologised for – in their hearts or the Mexican with fury at the decision which put a far away game even further away. These games of attacking with and understanding that doing so leaves openings at the back are not the concern here.

A fear of having to chase the game – very few World Cup games have been won by comebacks – neither team is prepared to put men forward. A result is needed today and – it seems – we cold be here fr sometime.

Not that one would criticise the two teams for playing this way. They are evenly matched – a great credit to Japan – and understand the nature of the opportunity in front of them.

Forty five goalless minutes are uncommendable but the second half sees the exciting Yasuhito Endo deployed further forward on the field and chances start although – to Japan’s regret – Paraguay lead in them. Roque Santa Cruz breaks forward but is tackled by Makoto Hasebe. Édgar Benítez is denied with his cross by the once again excellent Yuji Nakazawa.

Nakazawa’s partner Marcus Tulio Tanaka takes a bad knock to the arm – or perhaps the head – but after wandering off in a daze he is itching to return. Paraguay’s additions have seen them bring on a third striker and there is work to be done for the Asian side – although the results of that work look hazy at the moment. Japan have any possession they have in the two thirds of the field nearest their own goal mounting only the odd raid forward compared to Paraguay’s encampments which – it has to be said – show no more chance of bringing a goal.

Normal time ticks away and there is a lingering disappointment that while this game will produce a winner neither team has tried to force a victory. One is almost tempted to say that there are teams who full unjustifiably knocked out who could replace Paraguay or Japan are they not that interested in progressing.

Perhaps such talk is unfair. Unlike the Slovaks playing Holland yesterday Japan and Paraguay will consider themselves more evenly matched and neither side should be expected to give up that parity for the sake of entertainment. The English press has been full of criticism for their side for losing after chasing a 2-1 half time scoreline to the extent that they were picked off. Why should either of these sides suffer similar counter-attacks just for the thrills of the viewer? Certainly no one in England considers the game to have been entertaining.

Japan’s best chances come from Endo whipping free kicks from in and around the box but again nothing comes of that and in the end penalties come and Y?ichi Komano misses. Paraguay through and Japan left wondering – perhaps – why they did not feel the need to make more of this chance to progress.

Progress – however – might be the name of the game. They have done better than Italy and France and as well as England and Mexico. It is not the rising sun, but it is the start of the dawn.

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