Asia FIFA World Cup

Japan Made to Pay for Slow Start as Argentina Grabs Win

Two quick, early goals from Argentina U-17 settled their tie with Japan U-17 as the South Americans grabbed a  3-1 win in Tuesday’s 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup match at the Si Jalak Harupat Stadium in Soreang, Bandung Regency.

Having beaten Poland 1-0 in their World Cup opener, Japan suddenly found themselves overwhelmed by Argentina’s near-instantaneous pressure. The South Americans have lost their opening match to Senegal and were more than determined to make amends for it, hence their high-octane start.

Japan’s inability to keep up with Argentina’s fast start costed them dearly in the 5th minute. A free-kick on the edge of the Japan penalty area was well-executed by Argentina captain Claudio Echeverri, which left Japan goalkeeper Wataru Goto completely helpless.

Goto was once again beaten three minutes later, after Santiago Lopez had broken into the Japanese defense from the right and fed the ball towards Valentino Acuna, who lashed home Argentina’s second.

Having suffered such successive sucker punches, Japan tried their best to recover, only for their attempts to be snuffed out within the area by a disciplined Argentina defense.

The South Americans almost made it 3-0 after 38 minutes, however Dylan Gorosito’s effort from a one-on-one face-off with Goto agonizingly missed its target.

Shortly afterwards Yutaka Michiwaki almost pulled one back for Japan, however like Gorosito his long-ranged effort couldn’t find its intended target.

Five minutes into the second half, Japan, who had been steadily improving throughout the game, found their way back into contention. Once again, just like in the game against Poland, it was Rento Takaoka who found the back of the net with an expertly-taken finish.

Rento’s goal boosted Japan’s confidence, however at the same time it also spurred Argentina to try and kill the game off. Goto had to be called into action at least twice, denying both Echeverri and Lopez.

Japan’s persistent efforts seemed to have paid off in the 88th minute after Gakuto Kawamura had made it 2-2, however a foul on Argentina goalkeeper Jeremias Florentin meant that the goal had to be chalked off.

While Japan’s quest for an equalizer was painfully dashed, Argentina’s own quest to put the game to bed was fulfilled in the eighth minute of injury time – an Agustin Ruberto long-ranged shot was deflected into Goto’s goal by Kotaro Honda, effectively sealing all three points for Argentina.

In his post-match press conference, Japan head coach Yoshiro Moriyama took some positives from his side’s performance, however he also lamented Japan’s stuttering start to the match, a key factor to the Young Samurai Blue’s defeat.

“We did well, however, that wasn’t our best performance,” said Moriyama, as quoted from Tempo, “That summed up how we did especially in the second half.”

Moriyama also took note of Echeverri’s deadly attacking potential, hence why he had set up his Japan team to be as offensive as possible to anticipate Argentina’s fast-paced style of play.

“We now that Argentina is very good at attacking and their number 10 (Echeverri) is quite potent. His free-kicks are second to none and we had to do something to counter it,” said Moriyama.

The result meant that Japan are currently 3rd in Group D, equal on points with 2nd placed Argentina but with an inferior goal difference and head-to-head record. Leading the group were Senegal, who crushed last-placed Poland 4-1 in the early kick-off.

Tuesday’s matches also saw Brazil notching a crushing 9-0 win over New Caledonia in Jakarta, with the defending U-17 World Cup champions notching 77 attempts on goal compare to their opponents’ measly six. The Jakarta International Stadium also bore witness to a rousing comeback from England, going from 1-0 down to winning 2-1 over a stubborn and spirited Iran side.