Double football dream remains on track for Japan

Double football dream remains on track for Japan

Japan maintained their pursuit of double Olympic football gold as the men followed the women into the last four of the tournament.

Women’s World Cup holders Japan stunned Brazil yesterday to set up a semi-final clash with France at Wembley on Monday.

Just 24 hours later, the men clinched their own Wembley date, with Kensuke Nagai, captain Maya Yoshida and Yuki Otsu all on target in their quarter-final clash with 10-man Egypt, and will now face Senegal or Mexico on Tuesday.

In front of a 70,772 crowd at Old Trafford, surprise-package Japan never looked back after opening their account in the 14th-minute, with Nagai taking advantage of a mix up between goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi and defender Saadeldin Saad.

Running on to a low right-wing cross from Hiroshi Kiyotake, Nagai stole in front of Egypt’s colliding duo to stroke the ball into an empty net for his second goal of the tournament.

Nagai, however, was injured as Ahmed Hegazi ran into the back of the striker, which led to him being replaced in the 19th minute by Manabu Saito, who then played a key role in the only other notable incident of the half.

Chasing a 41st-minute through ball, Saito was clipped on the edge of the area by Saad who, as last man, was shown a straight red card by American referee Mark Geiger.

It was not until the 78th minute Japan took advantage of their numerical superiority, with Yoshida flicking home a low right- wing free-kick from Kiyotake, before Otsu headed in a left-wing cross from Takahiro Ohgihara five minutes later.

Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka, whose side have yet to concede a goal in their four games this tournament, feels they can go on to win gold.

“We are in a position to challenge the world,” said Sekizuka.

“The team is getting stronger game by game, we will prepare and step forward towards the medal.

“We are playing as 11 players together. Both offence and defence are functioning really well at the moment.

“I’m very satisfied we’ve progressed into our first semi-final for 44 years. The key now is to physically and mentally recover.”

Egypt coach Hany Ramzy naturally felt Saad’s red card changed the game as he said: “The dismissal of our player, which I do agree with, affected the team.

“It was difficult playing with 10 men against an organised team like Japan, but I’m still proud of my team. We’ve played a very good tournament.”

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