Football: Pride in defeat as Japan break their goal duck

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The Independent Online
Jamaica 2 Whitmore 39, 54 Japan 1 Nakayama 75 Att: 43,500

JAMAICA ACHIEVED their first World Cup victory and Japan scored their first goal yesterday in a Group H match won by the Reggae Boyz thanks to two goals by Theodore Whitmore. There may have only been pride at stake but judging from the performance of the players in an entertaining game, that was motivation enough.

Neither side had a chance of reaching the second round on their World Cup debut after losing both previous games. Argentina, who top the group, beat Croatia 1-0 in the other Group H game yesterday.

Yet both sides were fully committed in a game packed with incident. Unfortunately for Japan they failed to profit until 15 minutes from the end. By then goals from Whitmore either side of half-time had put Jamaica in command and the players celebrated their victory with a jubilant lap of honour.

After two emphatic defeats Jamaica restored some pride with yesterday's victory, said their Brazilian coach, Rene Simoes. "I'm very proud of the team and Jamaica must be," said Simoes, who has said that he will now leave his post. "We have had three wonderful games and learnt a lot."

Japan leave with no points but they finally broke their duck through Masashi Nakayama in the 75th minute. His volley off a header by Brazilian- born substitute Wagner Lopes was greeted with joy from the largely Japanese crowd who had seen their talented side squander numerous chances. The Japanese players looked dejected as they left the field after a third consecutive defeat that leaves a question mark over the future of the coach, Takeshi Okada, who hinted he may now resign.

"My contract runs only until the end of July," he said. "I didn't get my players to win a game that was winnable, I couldn't even make them draw when it was possible to draw. It is my responsibility for these results."

Okada watched helplessly as his side failed to make their domination count. From the opening whistle Japan, prompted by the playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata, put together fluent, well-worked attacks. Japan had width, with the left wing-back Naoki Soma particularly impressive and Jamaica were forced to defend for long periods.

Japan's passing and movement off the ball was both attractive and effective in opening up a defence that conceded eight goals in their previous two matches. But Japan's finishing was indecisive and Okada must surely be wondering whether he was right to leave Japan's leading striker, Kazuyoshi Miura, out of his squad.

Japan could have had a comfortable lead by half-time. In the 10th minute Nakata floated a cross to Shoji Jo but his powerful volley flew wide of the post. Jo was involved in again, putting in Hiroshi Nanami in the 29th minute, but Nanami rushed his shot and blasted over.

In contrast Jamaica took the lead having created little in the way of openings. In the 39th minute Whitmore broke into the box and fired a low shot past Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. It was only the third goal conceded by Japan.

Japan again started well after the break with Motohiro Yamaguchi and Masashi Nakayama both going close. However, just as it seemed the Japanese pressure must pay off Whitmore, who showed some neat touches throughout, struck again.

In the 54th minute he danced in from the right flank and tucked a left- foot drive into the bottom corner before reeling away to celebrate.

Japan finally broke through in the 75th minute when Nakayama volleyed home after Lopes picked him out with a header.

JAPAN: Kawaguchi, Narahashi, Soma, Ihara, Jo, Akita, Nanami, Nakayama, Nakata, Yamaguchi, Omura. Substitutes: Kojima, Ito, Ono, Lopes, Hattori, Okano, Morishima, Saito, Narazaki, Hirano.

JAMAICA: Lawrence, Goodison, Gardner, Sinclair, Malcolm, Dawes, Whitmore, Simpson, Lowe, Hall, Gayle. Substitutes: Barrett, Ricketts, Sewell, Brown, Cargill, Earle, Williams, Boyd, Burton.

Referee: G Benkoe (Austria)

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