THE JAPANESE DREAM

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Haradona’s Saturday football night out, despite no EPL matches on offer – Part 1
WERDER BREMEN vs BAYERN MUNICH: My Saturday late night session started with a much needed nap post dinner till 11pm. I woke in nick of time to see German international Per Mertesacker fire 14th placed Bremen to a lead over Bayern Munich. Munich’s away form, with just two wins, has been responsible to them never being considered title challengers this season.
For close to three fourths of this match, Bayern continued to look the same too.
However Mertesacker turned from hero to zero within thirty minutes as his own goal (deflection off a Mario Gomez cross) gave Bayern the lead. In the interim, Arjen Robben (the oldest looking 25yr old as per Ibracadabra in NCNB) had restored parity in the 65th minute and Bremen were denied a clear penalty when Gustavo committed a hand ball. Things turned for the worse when Klose made it 3-1 after a horror mistake from German international Torsten Frings.
Bremen’s horror night got rounded off when their goalie Tim Weise got a straight red for his flying tackle, kung fu style, on WC 2010 star Thomas Muller. The crowds started chanting something in German which the commentators said they would not be able to mention on live television. Bayern moved to 3rd spot still 14 points off leaders Borussia Dortmund, who romped to a comfortable 3-0 win on the night.
AUSTRALIA vs JAPAN: By the time I switched to the Asian Cup final at Qatar, two thirds of the game had gone and, much as expected, the scorers weren’t troubled. Australia had an edge before the game, as till this point, they had a 13-1 goals record to Japan’s 13-6. Japan had suffered a few red cards on the way and had tougher knockout opposition while Australia were in the toughest group alongside South Korea, Bahrain and India.
However Asia’s two top ranked nations are traditionally well organized at the back and hence this game had to be settled either by the first goal or by penalties. Till the game went into a century of minutes, Australia lived up to the billing of Asia’s number one team. Harry Kewell could easily have scored four in normal time, including two one-on-one situations, and Australia six; all denied by the bar, the post, last ditch blocks by the flying Japanese defenders and the awesome man of the match Japanese custodian, Kawashima.
Football has its own way of running the law of averages. In the semis vs Uzbekistan, whatever Australia struck, found the net. Today was the opposite as the Aussies struggled to find the net. With two strong defensive walls at either ends, the game had a predictable set pattern. The Socceroos would lob the ball inside the Japanese penalty area and hope Kewell, Emerton or Cahill use their superior height advantage. Japan’s corners, free kicks were just the opposite – all short and along the ground. The game had similar feel to the WC 2010 final and the winner came around the same time – deep into extra time.
Coach Alberto Zacheroni will take the kudos as his substitute Tadanari Lee fired home his first international goal to send Tokyo into wild celebrations. I had mentioned a few posts ago that Japan looked the real deal and expected a 1-0 result tonight too. South Korea collected the Golden Boot and Fair Play award as fans gave thumbs up to the organizers. My last images of this event was a banner in the stands which said “Thank You Qatar, see you in 2022”.
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