Honda puts dent in Cameroon
BLOEMFONTEIN – Keisuke Honda scored in the first half yesterday to lead Japan to a 1-0 win over an uninspired Cameroon in Group E.
The win was Japan’s first at the World Cup on foreign soil, and puts the Japanese at the top of Group E along with the Netherlands, who beat Denmark 2-0 earlier yesterday.
After a sloppy opening 30 minutes at the Free State Stadium, Japan broke the deadlock in the 39th when Daisuke Matsui’s curling cross from the right drifted over defenders Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane
Mbia and fell to Honda at the back post. The striker neatly controlled the ball and slotted it past goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou.
“I found a good position and the ball was very good,” Honda said. “I just told myself to be calm to make it because recently we have missed good chances, so I wanted to make it absolute today.
“Our strength is in our collective effort. To the very end we believed in our strength and we defended our goal,” said Honda, who was voted Man Of The Match.
Despite an attack led by Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon never really challenged Japan ’keeper Eiji Kawashima. The Africans struggled to control the ball and generate any rhythm up front, and even when they managed to put a few passes together, the buildup was usually wasted by poor crosses.
“We were too nervous in the first half. We lost many, many balls because we were nervous and that is why I am disappointed tonight,” Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen said.
“They were not playing to the best of their ability.”
Cameroon’s first shot on goal came in the 37th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting dropped the ball at the top of the box for Eyong Enoh, but Kawashima easily handled the midfielder’s low drive.
Japan’s well-organised defence frustrated Cameroon and kept Eto’o in check. Cameroon looked lost in the midfield, and clearly missed the creativity of Arsenal midfielder Alex Song, who Le Guen opted to keep on the bench.
Le Guen decided to play Eto’o on the right wing instead of up top as a central striker, and Eto’o tried to play a more active role in the second half. Just after the break, the Inter Milan striker deftly skipped through three defenders near the touch line before drawing the ball back for Choupo-Moting. But Choupo-Moting’s right-footed shot drifted past the left post.
Le Guen brought on two strikers – Achille Emana and Mohamadou Idrissou – midway into the second half, but to little effect.
Cameroon only began to push forward in search of an equaliser in the closing minutes, and they nearly got it in the 87th when defender Stephane Mbia’s powerful left-footed drive struck the crossbar.