Let’s get this off our chest: Javier Aguirre had done a decent job managing the Japan national football team, the Samurai Blue. But paper trails heralding news of corruption and match-fixing from days gone by in lands far away can be the death knell for big gigs and big opportunities. Aguirre is now the manager of Al-Wahda FC, who happen to be from the United Arab Emirates, whose national team under Mahdi Ali faced Japan, now under the control of Vahid Halilhodzic at the Saitama Stadium 2002.
And all things come full circle, not unlike the iconic disc, the sun, of Japan’s flag known as the Hinomaru. A historic win for the White Jersey came in the form of a 2-1 victory off a brace from Ahmed Khalil in the 20th and 54th minute. Japan’s lone goal came from Keisuke Honda in the 11th minute of play. To be fair, this match should have ended 2-2, but a shocking decision from Abdulrahman Al Jassim and his officiating crew to disallow a good equalizer in the second half (confirmed by video replay) effectively put the game out of reach.
Japan had a very poor performance in their own home turf. Their passes were disconnected. Their finishing was atrocious. Khalid Eisa played out of his skins as the UAE netminder. And the defensive positioning of the visitors was correct, precise, spot on, accurate. The Samurai Blue’s next opponents are Thailand and another dismal display at the Rajamangala Stadium could mean bad news for Halilhozic’s future managing Japan, and let’s be honest, this is one of the toughest national team gigs to have. We talked about the Agony of Doha. Now you can add the Agony of Saitama to the list of notorious defeats by Japan. Combined with their setback against Bosnia and Herzegovina (another 2-1 defeat, by the way), Japan are now on a two-match losing streak in international play.
As for the UAE, they cannot expect the officiating crew to save them in their next match against Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos of Australia. The Green and Gold were similarly abysmal in the first half against Iraq but were able to clean up their act in the second half and shut out the Lions of Mesopotamia, 2-0, on goals from Massimo Luongo (58′) and Tomi Juric (64′).
One important thing to note from this game is that Tim Cahill was an unused substitute on the bench. This means that he will most likely see minutes against the UAE at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 6. A strong performance away from home will give the Socceroos plenty of confidence heading into October.
Finally, Uli Stielike’s Taegeuk Warriors of South Korea were forced to sweat things out in the second half of their match against China but prevailed, 3-2. For another match, they have yet to draw, let alone lose, a match in World Cup Qualification. Zheng Zhi scored an own goal in the 20th minute before Lee Chungyong (62′) and Koo Jacheol (66′) made it 3-0. China didn’t go down without a fight. Goals from Yu Hai (73′) and Hao Junmin (76′) cut into the deficit, but it was too tall a mountain to climb.
Korea’s next opponents are Syria, but there is a chance the match does not take place due to a lack of a neutral venue. As we mentioned on TST, Macau have reeled out of hosting #SYRvKOR, and a forfeit could be on the cards if the time to find an alternative hosting sight is up. It would be a shame for Korea to freewheel their way to free points after a forfeit similar to Kuwait in the second round, but as the old adage goes, “You take what you can get.”
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