Olympic Cardiff: Japan Beat Brazil
World champions Japan score two to beat Brazil against the run of play in Cardiff’s very own Olympic Stadium, the Millennium Stadium.
Brazil, who are widely regarded as South America’s greatest women’s football side, produced free-flowing, highly skilful and sometimes mouth-watering football inside the Millennium Stadium on Friday night, in what proved to be a good advert for women’s football. They showed glimpses of the genius that crowned them Athens and Beijing silver medallists in 2004 and 2008, respectively, but they failed to find the end product. However, Japan, who had far less territory and possession of the ball in both halves, proved much more effective in front of goal, and produced two decisive goals to end Brazil’s run in these Olympics.
The two teams met after both falling second in their respective groups. Brazil were surprisingly beaten by Team GB in their last game after a 2nd minute strike by Steph Houghton at Wembley, whilst Japan controversially played to draw (0-0) against South Africa in their last game in the Millennium Stadium, so they could stay in Cardiff for yesterday’s quarterfinal clash instead of travelling to Scotland.
In last night’s match, the ball spent the vast majority of the game in the possession of the Brazilians in the Japanese half. I would argue that four out of the five standout players were Brazilian: Cristiane, Fabiana, Formiga and Marta (all Brazil) and Ogimi (Japan). It’s not that the Brazilians choked in front of goal, rather they had a phobia of getting inside the Japanese box in the first place, and just didn’t seem to want to shoot much. It was as if they were scared of giving the Japanese possession, so bided their time until the most opportune moment came when they could score. That moment never came. If that was a genuine Brazilian fear, one could see why. The Japanese were punishing with the ball. They lacked the flair and charm of the Brazilians, but they more than made up for it with their precision passing and ruthless attack. Despite far fewer chances in the Brazilian half, the Japanese always looked the more threatening in front of goal.
The Japanese number 17, Yuki Ogimi, got on the end of Homare Sawa’s 27th minute free kick to give her side an early lead, which was against the run of play. Brazil continued their settlement of the Japanese half with no reward, and the score at half time remained 1-0 to Japan. Brazil lacked width in this period of the game, and both sides produced some sloppy long passes. This area of the game was much improved in the second half, and led to one or two of the better Brazilian chances.
In credit to the Brazilians, their play never got scrappy or desperate as the game proceeded. But then again, maybe it should have – they never seemed to want to put the ball in the Japanese net. They seemed far more comfortable doing tricks than having kicks on goal. However, their footwork was both fancy and effective in getting them forward, and stand-out skill was shown by Cristiane and Fabiana. The Brazil squad’s leading goalscorer, Marta, caused havoc every time she got the ball. It’s both a wonder and a great sadness that she didn’t produce a memorable score for the crowd to cherish, but it wasn’t to be. Great credit must also go to Brazilian number 8, Formiga, who was the architect behind much of Brazil’s flow. She produced a controlling and experienced performance worthy and representative of her 98 caps.
However, such a sustained Brazilian effort in the Japanese half was not only fruitless, but also proved costly in the end. Ogimi had another great goal opportunity in the last third of the match in a well-crafted play, but sadly couldn’t finish it off. But the ruthless Japanese forward, Ohno, capitalised on the free space left in the Brazilian half on a fast break and sealed the deal decisively. Brazil couldn’t make it back from 2-0 down.
The attendance figure for the match was 28,526. None of the upper section seats were taken, nor were any seats behind either goal. But it didn’t deter the carnival atmosphere inside this glorious stadium. The shut roof played its part in what was sometimes a deafening roar of noise. For this reason, I’d prefer not to be pessimistic like most who would read that figure and say that the stadium was about 60% empty, but rather be an optimist and say it was about 40% full – the atmosphere really was something. The Brazilian fans didn’t stop singing for the full 90 minutes of the match and set alight a party spirit in the stands.
The Brazilians have been one of the best represented and most vocal of peoples this week from what I have seen in London and Cardiff, and they are a true delight at any match. They weren’t going to travel all this way to stay silent! This was especially true for our Brazilian Elvis friend. The Japanese were just as efficient off the pitch as on it, only producing flags when their team had scored on the pitch, whilst ruthlessly retracting them as the Brazilians kicked off again. After the first goal, hundreds of white and red flags suddenly popped up from seemingly nowhere, quashing rumours that only the Brazilian fans had turned up. For me, the greatest thing about the match was how it captured the true spirit of the Olympics, with Brazilians waving Welsh flags, and Brits up and dancing with the Brazilians.
I look forward to seeing what the atmosphere will be like in Brazil for the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. It is a big few years for the South American giant. I’m sure they can produce the results to match their performance next time round when they have the home advantage. Watch this space.
As for Japan, can they better the 4th place result they earned in Beijing? They meet France in the first semi-final today (Monday August 6th) at Wembley. Kick off at 5pm.
TheSprout would like to thank DofE Wales for the tickets.
Related Article: My Olympic Women's Football Experience