FIFA U-17 World Cup: England held goalless by gritty Japan, win on penalties
England were frustrated by Japan’s determination to close them down every time, but eventually won 5-3 on penalties to set up a quarterfinal against USA in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 17, 2017 23:41 IST
England won on penalties -- yes, you read that right --to set up a quarter-final against the USA in Goa but till then, Japan matched them step for step on Tuesday night at Salt Lake stadium.
Nya Kirby’s successful penalty, England’s fifth, ensured 100 % success in the tie-breaker and maybe now the monkey will be off their backs. For Japan, Hinata Kida’s effort was saved by Curtis Anderson and that made the difference between the teams after regulation time ended goalless.
True, England missed Jadon Sancho’s enterprise that all of Callum Hudson-Odoi’s industry couldn’t substitute, but Japan deserved credit for showing discipline to neutralise a team whose skillful individuals have so far added up to more than the sum of their parts.
Japan’s tight formation
Lining up in banks of four that played close to each other, Japan didn’t let England use the width of the park. It meant space seemed as real as El Dorado for England. That Angel Gomes had to be taken off in the 64th minute showed the 53,302 present how Japan had choked England.
After an early try by Soichiro Kozuki which Anderson parried, Japan played the waiting game right down to emerging later than England in the second half. It is not easy for a youth team to sacrifice possession but Japan did it in the way that perhaps needed every bit of coach Yoshiro Moriyama’s huge experience with youth teams.
Knowing England’s ability with free-kicks, Japan also checked themselves from committing to tackles in their back third; left-back Kida’s refusal to snatch from Steven Sessegnon in the 53rd minute being a case in point.
Yes, all the English pressure did induce errors in defence --- Yuki Kobayashi cynically felled Rhian Brewster and was booked and the central defender again erred in the 24th allowing Philip Foden a shot on goal before Hudson-Odoi beat Kida for speed -- but a combination of bodies at the back, England’s inability to take their chances, Hudson-Odoi’s delivery harmlessly rolling across goal and goalkeeper Kosei Tani’s good night helped Japan paper over them.
Tani denied George McEachran early in the second half and Foden twice and Brewster once in the first. In the 36th minute, a Brewster effort cannoned off the upright. And as they came close to forcing a tie-breaker, Japan added numbers to the attack. Takefusa Kubo scootered upfield but couldn’t finish with a good shot and Taisei Miyashiro’s first-timer didn’t miss by much. They ended the stronger team till it came down to the lottery of a shootout.