Japan Shocks Spain in Olympic Soccer Opener
Japan produced the biggest shock so far in Olympic football as it edged World Cup and European Champion Spain, 1-0, in the qualifying round at Hampden Park.
The Japanese came out more aggressive and their hard work finally paid off in the 34th minute as Yuki Otsu outmuscled defender Martin Montoya to nudge the only goal of the game and give Japan its first victory against a World and European champions at any level.
"This is still the first match and we still have far to go to even make the knockout round, but I look forward to playing Spain again later in the competition," Japanese manager Takashi Sekizuka said.
Sekizuka said his tactics of pressing Spain high up the field worked well throughout the game and was happy with how his players adapted to playing with a man advantage after halftime.
"In the first half our plan was to push high and pressure the centre-backs but after the red card it was more important to keep the ball, to move it and try to create space which we did well," he added.
Spain manager Luis Milla pointed to the ejection of defender Inigo Martinez as the main reason for the loss, saying the disadvantage did not allow them to play their normal possession-based game.
Martinez was sent-off five minutes before half-time for obstructing a clear goal-scoring opportunity for Kensuke Nagai as the Japan striker broke towards the Spain penalty area.
"Congratulations to Japan, they played a very good match but it was hard for us with a man less. Up until the goal things were relatively even but then we conceded a goal from a dead ball and were a bit unlucky to have a man sent-off," Milla said.
Spain, represented by under-23 players, has to win against Honduras on Sunday and Morocco on Wednesday in Group D for a chance to advance to the knockout stage.
Spain, with senior members playing, captured its second straight European Championship recently and won its first World Cup four years ago.
In other qualifying matches, Uruguay defeated United Arab Emirates, 2-1, and Great Britain and Senegal battled to a 1-1 draw in Group A.
In Group B, South Korea and Mexico fought to a scoreless draw while the match between Gabon and Switzerland ended in a 1-1 tie.
In Group C, Belarus beat New Zealand, 1-0 and Brazil survived Egypt, 3-2. In another Group D match, Honduras and Morocco battled to a 2-2- draw.
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