|May 4th, 2012|
|14||Pool A||4:00pm||CHN - JPN||2 - 3 (2 - 1)||Final|
China 2, Japan 3
For China, today’s 3-2 loss against Japan in a do-or-die match must be considered by the team to be the one that got away. Ahead 2-1 with 12 minutes left, China conceded two goals and ultimately lost its place in Sunday’s final as they watched their Asian rival earn the berth instead.
Kazuhiro Tsubouchi sealed the victory with just seconds left in regulation when he found himself on a breakaway with an empty net after China had pulled its goalie for the extra attacker. The crowd jumped on its feet as the game-winner clanked on the back board of the goal.
Japan found itself constantly on defense as China came out with an aggressive attack. Perhaps at times the attack was too aggressive as Japan’s first two goals were the result of Chinese shenanigans in the circle, resulting in a penalty stroke and a penalty corner goal.
China opened up an early lead when Na Yubo deflected the ball in on a penalty corner attempt. After the goal, Japan kept finding itself with breakaway chances, but continually fired off mark. The equalizer came with seven minutes left in the half when Koji Kayukawa went to the lower left corner on a penalty stroke to level things at one. But Yubo struck again, this time with an odd angle goal that caught Japan off guard making it a 2-1 affair at the half.
Japan’s best, and virtually only, chances came on the penalty corner in the second half and with seven minutes left in the game, they finally took advantage of one of the opportunities when Katsuyoshi Nagasawa flicked in a beautiful shot to the upper corner, evening things at two. Japan was nearly given a penalty stroke on the play, but after the umpires conferred it was made a penalty corner. The goal had to have been frustrating for the Chinese who were clearly the more offensive team in the half, swarming the Japan net much of the time.
China put complete pressure on Japanese net in the waning minutes of the game, but couldn’t get the go-ahead goal. In a must-win situation, the Chinese had no choice but to pull the goalkeeper leading the empty net marker.
Japan’s win took the pressure off South Africa, who entered the late game against Austria with their place already booked in the final against Japan.