Football: Brazil beaten and bowed by Japan

OLYMPIC GAMES
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The Independent Online
They found it so difficult to take in. Brazil, billed as the "dream team" of the Olympic football tournament, were beaten 1-0 by Japan in their opening group match in Miami on Sunday evening. The Japanese worked hard for their victory, but the decisive goal came from their only shot at goal.

Middlesbrough's Juninho, who had run his legs off with little support, looked stunned as he walked off the pitch at the Orange Bowl. Bebeto, one of the three over-age players each country is allowed to strengthen their squad, sat on the pitch and held his head in his hands. Some of the several thousand delirious Japanese fans, many wearing white headbands with their national Rising Sun symbol, decribed it as the biggest win in their sports history.

Nigeria joined Japan at the top of Group D with three points after a 1-0 victory over Hungary in Orlando, Florida, also on Sunday, so the Brazilians now need to beat Hungary tonight and Nigeria on Thursday to be sure of qualifying for next week's quarter-finals.

With their exuberant fans making up most of the 46,000 crowd, the Brazilians appeared to treat the first half as a training session. Juninho was the main threat, pushing forward on several runs only to be blocked by the sturdy Japanese defence. Eight minutes after the break, he beat the Japanese goalkeeper, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, with a cross-cum-shot from the right, but was foiled by the woodwork.

Maybe the Brazilians were still thinking about the female streaker who had romped on to the pitch three minutes earlier when the Japanese sent a long ball forward in the 72nd minute, causing defender Aldair and goalkeeper Dida unexpected problems. The ball came off Aldair's head into the path of Teruyoshi Ito, who only had to slide it into the net to take on national hero status.

Even the introduction of Ronaldinho, the man who signed for Barcelona last week for a fee estimated at around pounds 10m for Flamengo's Savio, failed to unsettle the Japanese defence.

The organisers had placed Brazil in Miami because of the huge Brazilian community but the fans, many carrying drums or tambourines, left in stunned silence. At home, the tournament is being billed as the next best thing to the World Cup and the one football trophy Brazil has never won, despite reaching the final twice.

The Olympic tournament, run in four groups of four, is split between Miami and Orlando, Florida, for groups B and D, and Birmingham, Alabama, and Washington DC for groups A and C. The quarter-finals will be played in Miami and Birmingham, with the semis and the final in Athens, Georgia.

Argentina, powered by the Atletico Madrid midfielder Diego Simeone, beat the United States 3-1 on Saturday to lead Group A from Portugal, who beat Tunisia 2-0. France, who defeated Australia 2-0, lead Group B from Spain, who edged Saudi Arabia 1-0. In Group C, Mexico and South Korea share the lead after 1-0 victories over Italy and Ghana respectively.

A women's tournament is being held in the same cities, with two groups of four, listed as groups E and F. After the opening games, the United States leads Group E after hammering Denmark 3-0. China lie second after beating Sweden 2-0 in a match played before a swelling Orange Bowl crowd arriving for Sunday's Brazil-Japan men's game. In Group F, Germany are alone at the top after a 3-2 victory over Japan. Brazil drew 2-2 with Norway, the world champions, thanks to a last-minute goal.

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