soccer

Australia downs Japan 2-1 to secure top spot in group for World Cup

60 Comments

Tim Cahill scored two second-half goals as Australia beat Japan 2-1 on Wednesday to finish the last round of Asian World Cup qualifying with an unbeaten record.

Both Japan and Australia had already booked their berths for South Africa 2010 ahead of the final qualifier and only top place in Group 1 was at stake.

Australia ended qualifying atop the group with 20 points, five clear of second-place Japan, and conceded only one goal in eight matches.

Everton midfielder Cahill reproduced his performance from the 2006 World Cup group match against Japan in Germany, when he scored twice to guide Australia to a remarkable comeback win.

He did it again in front of an estimated 70,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Japan dominated much of a lackluster first half before unmarked Marcus Tulio Tanaka darted forward to head in a Kengo Nakamura corner in the 40th minute.

The Australians went on the attack early in the second half and were rewarded when Cahill equalized in the 59th after rising in the box to nod in a floated Vince Grella free kick.

Cahill capped a man-of-the-match performance in the 77th when he eluded the Japan defense to gather a Nicky Carle corner and knock the ball past Japan 'keeper Seigo Narazaki.

Cahill was back in the side after skipping last week's match against Bahrain with muscle soreness. Lucas Neill, who missed last week's match while serving a suspension, was also back for Australia.

"It's starting to sink in now. It's been a great campaign by everyone," Neill said. "This is great reward in front of a great crowd."

Australia's best scoring opportunity of the first half came in the 7th minute when a powerful shot from midfielder Mile Sterjovski was deflected over the bar by Narazaki. Cahill attempted to head in the resulting corner moments later, but it went wide.

Japan engineered several attacking forays in the Australian half, but its best chance came in the 19th minute when a Shinji Okazaki strike sailed over the bar after Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer sliced a clearing kick.

Neill prevented another Japanese goal moments before halftime when a he headed away a free kick from the goal line after Nakamura's spot kick beat Schwarzer.

"We had a great campaign," Australia coach Pim Verbeek said. "It's fantastic for Australian football. I'm very proud of my players."

The top two teams in Groups A and B advance directly to the finals. The two third-placed sides meet in a playoff, with the winner of that two-leg tie to take on Oceania champions New Zealand for a ticket to South Africa. The draw for the 2010 finals, being hosted by nine cities across South Africa from June 11-July 11, is set to be held in Cape Town in December.

© Wire reports

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60 Comments
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Hoorah! :)

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Pretty good game considering there was nothing at stake. Japan didn't have their usual passing game going but neither team had their best players available so it's understandable.

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Okada's post match comment: "We couldn't handle their height on the set plays." That seems weird to me considering Japan scored from a header and both of Australia's goals were scored by one of the smallest guys on the field!

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Good to see the Japanese commentators again eat crow. Unbelievably in the first half, both were talking about Japan's objective at the upcoming World Cup being an appearance in the Semi-Finals. The big question is, what are these people smoking and where can I get some.

With regard to the action down on the pitch, I thought the game was pretty even until Cahill turned up again and scored. Given his role in sinking Japan at the last World Cup (and becoming the most famous Australian soccer player in Japan), old Timbo had better keep a look over his shoulder (lol) because if this keeps up, there will be a contract.

Anyway about the last 20 minutes of the game, Japan gave up and reverted to the old tactic of nobody wanting to take the shot. The running game also seemed to stop. Don't know, either a lack of killer instinct or a lack of match fitness against the strongest team in Asia. Either way, Australia won probably on the better performance.

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Well done to the mighty boys in Green and Gold! Timmy is gonna be needed big time in South Africa. Also, kudos to Tulio, he is a champion player and gallant in defeat, too.

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Besto Fo yeah right. If you are going to complain about their height or strength then why would you keep on sending crosses all the time.

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Okada should be fired ASAP. This is not good enough.

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Okada should be fired ASAP. This is not good enough.

I thought it was rather good actually. As I wrote on a thread earlier today, in Japan faith springs eternal (or lunacy abounds). No matter what the sport, the people in power pump up the rhetoric about national prowess even when no performance track record exists. As such, when Japan fails to live up to the hype that is rammed down the public's throat, all they can due is either bow or make up lame excuses. And this is not going to change, the Olympics used to be the be all and end all, but now it is the World Cup. Okada is just playing the game by the rules here in Japan. Sacking him would serve no purpose.

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I agree with you, Timorborder. Okada seems to be doing a solid, albeit unspectacular job, with solid, unspectacular players. Getting Japan to the WC Finals is good achievement, however hyping them to be a Semi Finals team is madness. You have to beat Europeans and Sth Americans to progress in the WC. Japan will not beat any Europeans or South Americans in WC Finals; sensible people realise this. You have to respect your limitations.

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neither side fielded a top team, so when 2 b-sides play, all is even. if aloisi was playing, it would have been a 3:1 repeat of germany. it should be a good reminder to japan that aus aren't so dumb. i was in jap during the 2006 wc, and they unwisely dismissed the aus team as a bunch of idiots. you haven't learnt from your mistake if you are talking about beating aus, or getting anywhere near the finals of the wc. (and i do love japan - it is my favourite country to be in :)

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Just another quick comment about showing Okada the door or not? Who would be a possible replacement. Okada is boring but reliable. He has got the national team through to the finals twice. Moreover, Japan has not had much luck bringing in foreign managers. Phillipe the French man (in 2002) did a good job but blotted his copybook with the administrators here. Zico seriously underwhelmed in the results he delivered. Indeed, I don't think coaching the Japanese team is a job for a non-Japanese coach. The soccer bit might be alright, but always having to look over your shoulder and pay lip service to the old boy's club would be very stressful. There is also that other circus that masquardes as the media in this country. So any ideas, who could replace Okada?

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Actually Japan was better in the first half. I though Australia will lose. I did not watch the second half and I am surprised of the results.

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Nicky Carle was sublime in the second half..we need his dead ball skills permanently (despite a shocking first half) Proud Newy fan here. All the Okada dissers setp back a bit..how do you honestly coach players to keep Tim Cahill from scoring headers? The guy is a monster.It gets into the realm of science.I thought that Japan were a tad unlucky considering how Grella should have had 10 cards or so (he is an animal) and how Australia's midfield (Grella and Culina) was a deadest shambles.Second half was much better.Tulio Tanaka is brilliant..hope he is in Eurpoe soon as he is a machine!!! Good work Tulio and oodles of passion.Abe and Nakamura were also good for Japan.Tamada was not so good again.

Let's face it...Japan would have been 10 times better if Nakazawa had played.He didn't and then Cahill happened.Roll of the dice.

Also thought Williams was very impressive in his first game...and will we really see Kennedy at Grampus soon?? That will be the best thing ever for the J-League (especially for Tulio and Yuji) Good win Australia if not convincing.

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nakazawa didn't play, kewell didn't play. emerton didn't play. both sides would have been 10 times better if, if, if. both were down roughly the same in quality. aus had an untried rookie and a one cap player in defence. both sides came in even. can't use that excuse, and okada will know that. if the rest of japan wants to bury its head in the clouds, then do so at your peril for 2010

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Good job, Australia. Didn't let me down. I was pleasantly surprised to see Japan get it's own goal instead of relying on own-goals all the time. And no, not at all surprising to watch them revert to the "I don't want this thing, YOU take it!" pass pass pass lose the ball strategy which won't see them past the first three games if they don't change it. Wasn't surprising either to hear the hyped up commentary sink to 'b-b-b-b-ut this and that' (they're so tall!) when it was clear Japan would lose.

Anyway, again, awesome job, Aussies. I'll be cheering for you in the WC. Japan, I'll be cheering for you too if you start showing some back bone and taking more shots on net.

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But it is true that Australians are taller are bigger...but on the other hand shorter players are more technical and quick so basically it is size against skills and sometimes luck helps.

Cahill saved the Australian team many times...

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Height is nice, but not a HUGE requirement in soccer. I'm sick of hearing it as an excuse. If Japan's excuse is height they should quit now because they won't go anywhere, ever. On the other hand, if they want to buck up and admit height can easily be overcome (like they did when they scored with a HEADER!), they have a chance. I pity the team that can only fall back on excuses before the real games have begun.

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What sport is this? Is it soccer? They make no mention to it.

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Congrats to team japan,team south korea,team north korea,team saudi arabia or team bahrain and team australia ,for qualifying to world cup 2010 in south africa.

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What is the obsession with putting "team" before team names? People know they are a team by the sheer nature that we are talking about sport. Are we going to start talking about Team Manchester United take on Team Birmingham City next season?

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soldave at 07:34 AM JST - 18th June

If you read Rakakumar’s other posts you will see that English is not his (her) first language, but he/she does a very good job at trying to get their ideas across. The translated ideas do sometimes include what we might view as stating the obvious, but in many languages that is how it is done. Please give credit where it is due.

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Japanese Football needs a reality check. I am sorry if this offends anyone but you will be lucky to even win a game in the world cup let alone make the Semi Finals. I think Australia is the best team in ASIA mainly because there players all play in the either the EPL, SPL, Serie A or Holland. They have the experience of playing in the big leagues and also playing in competitions like the UEFA champions league, EURO cups, FA Cup etc etc. I can name 25 Aussies who have been in playing in Europe for 10+ years whereas i can only think of 3 players who have played in Europe hailing from Japan. Out of those 3 Japanese players Nakamura is the only player i would rate as a regular first team footballer. Celtic love him and they are very sad to see him go.

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This height excuse is baloney. The best national team in the world (Spain) is a bunch of shorties.

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tulio outjumped giant kennedy to head a goal, and tim cahill is a medically certified midget, but outjumped everybody to head a goal. height is ultimately about as important as what brand of bucket the oranges are carried in. sorry. can't use that excuse either. and when you run out of excuses, start looking at the reality of the current team, coach and culture of japanese football. i think jap-aus are headed for a great and healthy ongoing rivalry, and it doesn't always go either way. total historic head to head after last night is 5wins each, 6draws, aus21-jap23 goals. can't get much more even than that.

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sorry - last comment was based on old information. head to head is now aus 6:5 jap wins, 6 draws, 23 goals each.

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6:5, 6 draws, aus23-jap24 goals. finally. got it right.

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wonder if they managed to get okada`s interview this time to explain how he felt on a second-by-second basis through the game. over grown melo drama queens ...

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Japan have got to do better.With all the money they spend on soccer and the amount of players to choose from they are ordinary...and as usual they just can't find a star to win them games.

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Guys, I don't know how you interpret the game but I watched the replay on BS-A and have slightly different opinion.

Australia is a tough team and Japan lacks some essence - that sums it up!

I think despite Japan doesn't have players in top European teams J-league have improved its quality.

Everybody points at Nakamura but:

He plays in Scotland (a sub-quality in Europe - even weaker than Russia, Turkey or Romania I would say) He is not always the man and he is not the only one who plays.

So what we see is quite big number of good players from J-league who somehow are not made into a high competitive team. Okada-san's sole responsibility! With this players Toursie would have done miracles.

So back on the match! All 3 goals were from static situations. Play wise I would say Japan had advantage. Second half Aussies started determined but did some rough play. Of coarse Japan has to be ready to withstand this. And they did! After the drawing goal Japan was the better and more attacking team but that is football and mistakes are punished.

As mentioned Japan can not make it this way at the WC - they need to improve in those last 20 meters to the goal. Nobody takes responsibility or tries to do something creative. With slow predictable passing and little movement from the forwards they simply can't score.

Just my 2 yen ;)

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Japan are clearly missing a striker. Australia are a very mediocre team without Tim Cahill in their side and they will not go beyond the group games in South Africa. Japan played much better football last night and are technically superior to Australia, but if there is no end result then something is wrong. Australia were at full strength last night and Japan had at least 4 key players missing (Nakamura/ Endo/ Nakazawa/ Oguro) yet still played the better football.

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Australia and Japan were both poor last night. Neither team will go far in the world cup.

Japan might improve if they actually play some of their European based players who are used to playing against bigger and stronger opponents. I of course am talking about Inamoto of Frankfurt and Morimoto of Catania.

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Yes, you are right "beowulf" both team will not pass the first round. Yesterday game was a shame for two World Cup qualifier !

I want to add that Matsui is still playing in France.

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beowulf, you can't judge last nights performance as an accurate indicator for what will happen in the world cup

both sides were half B squad, neither had to win, there was no extreme pressure, it's nothing like a world cup game

it was still an entertaining and fun game though i thought ( I am Australian)

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In the world cup, the groups are split into pots by continent, it's highly probable that both Japan and Australia will each be in a group with 1 African team, 1 North or South American team, and 1 or 2 European teams

e.g Group A Tunisia, Chile, England, Japan Group B Gabon Uruguay Netherlands, Australia

to get through the group stage, you just need to gather more points than 2 other teams, that's not easy, but it can be done

both nations will want to avoid a group of death such as e.g Group C Ivory Coast, Brazil, England, Japan

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Okada-san's sole responsibility! With this players Toursie would have done miracles.

Troussier was lucky to, a) inherit one of the best Japan squads ever (Nakata, Inamoto etc) and, b) was riding the crest of the 2002 World Cup euphoria here in Japan. They were knocked out of their first game after the group stages anyway. Okada meanwhile has always had to achieve results the hard way. That means two World Cup Finals qualifications without a host nation bye that Troussier got in 2002.

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and to say that australia is nothing without cahill is not true australia beat the netherlands 2-1 in eindhoven in a friendly without cahill , yes it was only a friendly, but it was quality opposition

some of the posts here need to stop being pessimistic towards Japan and Australia and be more realistic!

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The best national team in the world (Spain) is a bunch of shorties.

Bar Fernando Torres (1.85m), Sergio Ramos (1.83m), Xabi Alonso (1.83m), Arbeloa (1.84m)...

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over grown

I thought everyone is saying that they are too short ??

melo drama queens ...

They still played better football than the Sheilaroos last night.

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northlondon, your post is very emotionally driven. To suggest that Australia are 'mediocre' without Cahill, shows a real lack of knowledge. Did you see Emerton, Moore, Kewell or Bresciano playing last night ? Australia made the second round in 2006, losing only to the eventual winners Italy, after a very dubious, political penalty. When was the last time Japan beat the Netherlands or England ? I doubt very much that Japan are 'technically superior'. Faster across the park maybe, great commitment probably, but not 'technically superior' and certainly not physically as good. The Japanese contest for the ball sometimes reflected an unwillingness to go hard. I feel that you may have been watching some other game ? Three games against Japan and the cumulative scoreline is 5-2. There is a clear message in those numbers. The Socceroos have performed really well and will do their country proud in SA, despite the fact that Soccer is only the fourth most popular football code in this country.

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simon, you clearly didn't watch the game last night. Japan were the better team but they can't score to save their lives. Of the 4 players you mention as missing, only Bresciano is a reasonably decent player. Kewell sits on the bench. Bar Tulio, Japan had 3 of their best players missing last night (Endo/ Nakamura/ Nakazawa) and Australia would not have won without Cahill.

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Bar Fernando Torres (1.85m), Sergio Ramos (1.83m), Xabi Alonso (1.83m), Arbeloa (1.84m)...

...Casillas (1.85m), Gerard Pique (1.91m), Marchena (1.83m).

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Northlondon are you kidding? Emerton is a fantastic player, he is a more than capable at both defending and bringing the ball up the field, the same goes for Chipperfield. Moore is a very solid defender and he doesn't let much get past him. In our last several World Cup qualifiers that have counted, Kewell has been the one to create dangerous runs into the penalty box.

You don't seem to have any knowledge about Australia.... so your opinion is invalid.

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There are those that will accept reality by acknowledging the superiority of the opponent and there are those that will attempt to deal with a loss by showing disrespect towards the victors. It is clear which choice you have made....

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Geez...these posts are as boring as the game was.The Aussies won,get over it.

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They were B Teams last night but there is nothing to suggest from this qualification phase that either team will go far. Australia probably have the better chance of doing well, because they have a tight defence and are a threat from free-kicks.

I want both teams to do well, in fact I want all Asian teams to do well, but there is just something missing this time around.

The upside is they have a year to prepare and things might turn around, but it is not looking good at this point in my opinion.

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norhtlondon wrote:

Troussier was lucky to, a) inherit one of the best Japan squads ever (Nakata, Inamoto etc) and, b) was riding the crest of the 2002 World Cup euphoria here in Japan.<

Yes he was lucky to inherit the team he made Asian youth champions (if I am correct)! He did extremely well with the Japanese youth national team, he was nobody but was given after that the men team and delivered again. He was controversial but passionate and I've watched how he show the players how to tackle and other details.

All "great" coaches forget that anywhere except in the top football countries it is not enough only to coach. You have to show techniques and rise up the mentality of the players.

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northlondon> while I do agree that Japan played the better football last night (less so in the second half) some of the claims you make have a distinct 'We hate the Aussies' English bias.Kewell always starts off the bench eh? sorry to disappoint you geezer,but he has started every game he has played in since the last Asian cup.If you think Scott McDonald and Emerton do not make the cut then I think you are profoundly mistaken. Do both teams need to get a heck of a lot better? yes. Were those the best starting lineups last night? far from it. Playing a dead rubber just to let your fringe players have a run can hardly be compared to the mentality and approach shown in a World Cup match.Both teams can and will play much better.

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He didn't play for them and he didn't play for us and......the end result is the people available played and the result is as it is....Japan lost. If so and so did play who is to say he wouldn't have pulled a muscle in the first minute and got replaced anyway.........hypothetical situations are amusing aren't they...but the results stand.

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I hate to point fingers, but I am really disappointed in Abe, both in this game and the previous game. He is just not playing well. He is definitely not a replacement for Nakazawa. I think they do have a good striker in Okazaki, if they could get him the ball. Matsui had some good runs, but he doesn't seem to mesh with the team like Nakamura (Shinsuke) does.

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Japan's problem, as it's been for years, is that that they have no strikers. This seems to be a country of midfielders. I keep thinking there must be some guy in the J-league that can hold a ball up, hold off a defender, turn his man, make space in the box and more imortantly finish. There just seems to be this neverending stream of weak non-entities at no.9. Yanagisawa, Okubo, Maki, Tanaka, now Okazaki and a load of others I can't recall right now. Only proper centre-forward they've had was Takahara who's apparently off-form in Germany and Okada celarly isn't a fan. Without someone there then Nakamura and Endo wouldn't have added too much end product, just good passes to useless finishers.

Have to (partly) agree with Terebiko, Abe stood a yard off Cahill for the first goal and left Tulio being challenged by two forwards, but I think I recall he's actually a defensive midfielder, and really just doesn't have a defender's brain when defending in the box. Nakazawa is always missed when he doesn't play.

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I was at the game with my Japanese friends, it was a good spectacle. Australia started well and were passing the ball with some nice one-touch play. Then Japan stepped up a notch, got the first goal. This was the best thing that could have happened for the game, as the intensity went up enormously after that.

Both teams had their good and poor moments, and both did well considering both lacked key players. As someone mentioned, it's a nice rivalry we are building, I'm already looking forward to the next time we meet.

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It was exciting until the ad's finished and the game started. A snooze fest!

Too much off field hype and no sizzle with soccer matches.

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japan was first into the world cup, yet on that 2nd half performance when the heat was turned up,will be first out..very disappointing

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Only proper centre-forward they've had was Takahara who's apparently off-form in Germany and Okada celarly isn't a fan

Takahara`s been at Urawa for the last season and a half. He scored on Saturday.

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If only those Aussie rules guys would play soccer,they might win the World cup....or at least play entertaining soccer.

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Imagine if Soccer was in the top 3 football codes in Australia....we would be Invincible! At least we have a good chance of getting past the first round of the WC...unlike poor old Japan, who cannot beat European/South American/Australian teams.

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Why do I always find myself secretly rooting against Japan no matter who their opponents are?

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How about we change the game to which country can donate the highest percentage of GDP?

That way we can get back to reality in a world where recently 1B people are now in poverty. That's 1 in 6 people worldwide.

As the most played sport in the world, The World Cup should be about world issues, not the garbage posted above. Maybe this is why Nakata stopped playing, something to think about.

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The World Cup should be about world issues, not the garbage posted above. Maybe this is why Nakata stopped playing, something to think about.

I can't speak for everyone, but for me Soccer is about sporting competition, not global politics. END OF.

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"japan was first into the world cup, yet on that 2nd half performance when the heat was turned up,will be first out..very disappointing"

I'm sick of hearing how 'Japan was the first team'. They were the first team not based on some extreme kind of talent, like it's first place or anything, but because of the timing of the games. Had it started a couple hours later there would have been at least one team qualifying before them.

You're right, though, that if Japan doesn't pick up their game they'll be out AGAIN in the first round -- probably in their first two games.

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