Sunday, June 18, 2006

Both Japan and Croatia lost their first game, both teams need the full three points.
However, Croatia's world cup dream is living large, while Japan’s dream is in discussion. The commentator calls Japan's loss against Australia "demoralizing" and Croatia's loss against Brazil "inspiring".
However, it is Japan taking control of the early game, taking possession of the ball.
The game starts uneventful.
"Nothing is going on in the middle," says the commentator while the teams take turns in losing the ball.
Croatia's first serious shot on target comes from a corner. The Japanese keeper punches it away, and again seconds later.
Still, I see no goal.
In the 17th minute, Japan is one strike away of the one - nil. A striker, running towards the box to accept a cross, swings his foot over the ball. Another day, he would have made contact.
Minutes later, a striker of Croatia has a similar problem. A high pass down the middle is only inches too far, and the Croatian striker brushes his foot behind the ball. Another day he too would have made contact.
Croatia thought to get an easy three points, but they struggle to stay in the battle.
In the 21 min, the soccer gods give Croatia a little push. A striker is tackled inside the box. The ball goes on the dot, penalty.

However, the drama is only starting, and the Japanese keeper lives his dreams. He can stretch his body far enough, so his arm is stretched far enough, for his left hand to tap the ball next to the goal.

Japan finds inspiration, while Croatia steps up the pace.
Twenty-eight minute into the game, Croatia creates its first serious attack on the goal of Japan.
"A thunderous strike," calls the commentator the shot that cracks the wood of the crossbar.
Minutes later the balls, on cruise-speed, travels in front of the Japanese goal line. Nobody home.

"It has been fifty five percent possession for the Japanese, but Croatia had the better chances," says the commentator.
I do not agree, I saw no real chances at all.
Japan gets sloppy in the back," he says moments later. It is an understatement when the Japanese keeper looks at an upcoming rolling ball with his hands in the side. The ball fools him, and rolls past him. Saving the man for a life-long nightmare, the ball rolls besides the goal.
The second half gets more creative, while Japan keeps surprising.
Neither team can find the net, the game seems to cool.
"The red and white checkerboards of the Croats, dates at least as far back as the ten century," says the commentator, filling death time.
"Not enough on that one," he says while a striker of Croatia takes a shot from long range. A pass to his free teammate would have been better, I say.
Seventy-five minutes into the game, Croatia fires several times on target, from the penalty box. The defense blocks each shot.
"Here comes Japan, right back at you," says the commentator.
Only the defense of Croatia plays as sharp as the Japanese one. A Croat sticks his foot on the Japanese cross through the penalty box, killing Croatia's momentum.
Alex, the Brazilian player who immigrated to Japan, comes close to give the world cup dream to his new fatherland in the last phase of the game.
However, the meek result and the only one point, when the whistle blows, neither team has to exit. Nevertheless, the door to the second round is still further away. Croatia wants to forget this match quickly while Japan probably makes a movie out of it.