World Cup: Honda helps Japan beat Cameroon 1-0
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa – Keisuke Honda scored in the first half Monday to lead Japan to a 1-0 win over an uninspired Cameroon in Group E of the World Cup.
The win is Japan’s first at the World Cup on foreign soil, and puts the Japanese at the top of Group E along with the Netherlands, which beat Denmark 2-0 earlier Monday.
After a sloppy opening 30 minutes at the Free State Stadium, Japan broke the deadlock in the 39th when Daisuke Matsui’s curling cross from the right drifted over Cameroon defenders Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia and fell to Honda at the back post. The striker neatly controlled the ball and slotted it past goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou.
Despite an attack led by Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon never really challenged Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima. The Africans struggled to control the ball and generate any rhythm up front, and even when they managed to put a few passes together, the buildup was usually wasted by poor crosses.
Cameroon’s first shot on goal came in the 37th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting dropped the ball at the top of the box for Eyong Enoh, but Kawashima easily handled the midfielder’s low drive.
Japan’s stiff defense frustrated Cameroon and kept Eto’o in check. Cameroon looked lost in the midfield, and clearly missed the creativity of Arsenal midfielder Alex Song, who coach Paul Le Guen opted to keep on the bench.
Eto’o tried to played a more active role in the second half. Just after the break, the Inter Milan striker deftly skipped through three defenders near the touch line before drawing the ball back for Choupo-Moting. But Coupo-Moting’s right-footed shot drifted past the left post.
Le Guen brought on two strikers – Achille Emana and Mohamadou Idrissou – midway into the second half, but to little effect. Cameroon only began to push forward in search of an equalizer in the closing minutes, and they nearly got it in the 87th when defender Stephane Mbia’s powerful left-footed drive struck the crossbar.
The Japanese win comes eight years to the day since its last victory at the World Cup, when it beat Tunisia 2-0 in Osaka. Japan also beat Russia at the 2002 World Cup.
Japan: Eiji Kawashima, Yuki Abe, Yuichi Komano, Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Yuto Nagatomo, Yusuhito Endo, Daisuke Matsui (Shinji Okazaki, 69), Yoshito Okubo, Makoto Hasebe (Junichi Inamoto, 88), Keisuke Honda, Yuji Nakazawa.
Cameroon: Hamidou Souleymanou, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Nicolas Nkoulou, Sebastien Bassong, Samuel Eto’o, Jean Makoun (Geremi, 75), Eric Choupo-Moting (Mohamadou Idrissou, 75), Achille Webo, Eyong Enoh, Stephane Mbia, Joel Matip (Achille Emana, 63).