Asia FIFA World Cup

Japan Overcome An Inspired Poland and A Thunderstorm to Clinch Opening Win

Saturday’s exciting match at a drenched Si Jalak Harupat Stadium in Soreang, Bandung Regency, saw Japan U-17 open their 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over Poland U-17. The game had everything – deluges of chances, superb performances from goalkeepers Wataru Goto and Michal Matys, a 15-minute pause due to heavy rainfall and a thunderstorm, and a superb cannonball of a goal from substitute Rento Takaoka that sealed the game then and there.

Japan had won all four of their previous four opening matches of the U-17 World Cup and Yoshiro Moriyama’s boys were more than determined to make it five. Standing in their way, however, are a Poland side making their return to the U-17 World Cup for the first time since 1999, a whopping 24 years ago, who are looking to ensure that their appearance in Indonesia won’t be just a mere cameo.

The first half of the match was a breathless, high-octane end-to-end action, with both Japan and Poland exchanging blow after blow. The Young Samurais should’ve found themselves going at least three goals up by the end of the first 45, however they found Matys in inspired form, with the Zaglebie Lubin shot-stopper pulling off a series of impressive saves to deny Japan the lead.

Matys’ opposite number in Goto also had quite the eventful first half, despite not pulling off as many saves as his counterpart, the FC Tokyo goalie was on-hand to deny several Polish chances, keeping the scoreline goalless at half-time despite the multitude of chances throughout the 45 minutes.

The Greater Bandung region has been experiencing torrential rain throughout the match and it became even worse as the second half kicked-off, with thunder and lightning flashing above the Si Jalak Harupat. Visibility was gradually reduced with each passing minute but that did not dampen any fighting spirit that Japan and Poland had, with Matys and Goto, as well as their defenders, still working hard to ensure that the scoreline are still evenly-poised.

Eventually, the rain and thunderstorms were too much for both teams to handle and in the 69th minute, the match was halted for the safety of the players, the officials, as well as everyone in attendance. Play was suspended for around 15 minutes before it was resumed from where it has left off, with a Goto goal-kick. During this pause, Moriyama took the time to introduce some fresh legs into his team, namely Yutaka Michiwaki and Takaoka.

And surely enough, it was the substitute duo who worked out Japan’s winning goal in the 72nd minute. Roasso Kumamoto youngster Michiwaki laid the ball off towards Takaoka, who represents the Nissho Gakuen high school football team. Takaoka wasted no time in blasting home a powerful shot to the top right corner from within the penalty area, with the ball going well beyond Matys’ reaches.

There was time for Poland to mount one last charge for an equalizer in the first minute of injury time, however Goto pulled off a superb save to deny Daniel Mikolajewski, thus allowing Japan to successfully retain their slender lead and start-off their U-17 World Cup campaign with a win.

Saturday’s other matches saw two surprising results – Argentina going down 2-1 to Senegal in Bandung while Brazil were stunned 3-2 by Iran in Jakarta, with the earlier match at the Jakarta International Stadium saw England grab a crushing 10-0 win over New Caledonia.