Japan defeats Tunisia 2-0 to clinch Group HPosted: Friday June 14, 2002 2:19 AM
Updated: Friday June 14, 2002 2:30 PM
OSAKA, Japan (AP) -- Japan gained a historic place in the World Cup's final round of 16 with a 2-0 victory Friday over Tunisia as the co-hosts advanced on second-half goals by substitute Hiroaki Morishima and midfield playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata.
Appearing in only its second World Cup finals, Japan would have advanced with only a draw -- and perhaps a loss. The victory put it atop Group H and avoided a second-round match with four-time champion Brazil. Instead, Japan will face Turkey on Tuesday. (Fans dance in streets across Japan.)
Brazil, winner of Group C, will face Belgium, No. 2 in Group H, on Monday. Belgium defeated Russia 3-2 in Friday's other Group H match.
Coming in to start the second half, Morishima took advantage of poor Tunisian defending in the 48th minute. As the ball rolled free in the area, Morishima got a clear right-footed shot off and drove it behind Tunisian 'keeper Ali Boumnijel from 10 meters (yards).
Nakata, Japan's acknowledged star, scored his first goal of the tournament in the 75th, taking a cross from Daisuke Ichikawa and heading it home from 7 meters (yards).
"I'm very proud," said Japan's French coach Philippe Troussier. "You can see the blue fever. We have been at our best in the tournament. We can be very proud of the performance of the players."
"Today we feel very rewarded for our efforts. We are really very, very happy. It's a beautiful story we have created. .... We are not tired, we are right on target, we are calm and confident going ahead."
Japan lost all three games in its World Cup debut in '98 in France -- scoring only one goal -- but has used fanatic home crowd support this time and the guidance of Troussier to beat Russia 1-0 and draw Belgium 2-2.
"We never calculated, never tried to work out how we could qualify," Troussier said. "We always tried to play ambitious, attacking soccer and that's what won the game today."
"It's marvelous to have won a match with two goals, without injuries, without bookings. ... Overall, many experts wrote off the Tunisians because they had some problems in preparing before the World Cup, but today they posed us many problems."
In the first World Cup played in Asia, the other co-host South Korea needed only a draw in its match later Friday against Portugal to also advance to the final 16.
North Korea in 1966 was the first Asian team to reach the second round, losing in the quarterfinals to Portugal.
Tunisia coach Ammar Souayah tried to sound upbeat.
"Our objective was to put in a good performance to show Tunisian football in the best possible light," he said. "The next goal on the horizon is the African Nations Cup in 2004. We have plenty of time top prepare for that."
Asked if he played too conservatively, Souayah replied: "It's normal to be cautious playing against a team on its home soil, a team that's very aggressive in terms of controlling the ball and closing down the opposition."
Tunisia managed only one point after a 2-0 loss to Russia and 1-1 draw with Belgium. (Africa disappointed in Tunisia exit.)
Both sides started slowly in the first half put picked it up in the second half, pushed on by the early goals.
Neither team did any damage in the first 20 minutes. Japan had only one meek shot and Tunisia did not manage any.
It wasn't until the 22nd that Japan picked up the first corner of the match, and not until the 34th that Japan had a serious shot on goal. Ziad Jaziri had Tunisia's best chance when he turned and fired wide from 18 meters (yards) in the 38th.
Tunisia needed a victory to have a shot at advancing.
Japan's qualification means that for the first time at a World Cup, countries from all five of FIFA's participating continental confederations -- Europe, South America, Central and North America, Africa and Asia -- will be represented in the second round.
Troussier: Japan deserved win, more to come
Japan deserved Friday's 2-0 victory over Tunisia and are poised for greater things in the second round against Turkey, Japan coach Philippe Troussier said.
"I think we deserved to win," the Frenchman said after his team's final group H match took them to the second round of the World Cup finals for the first time.
"To qualify for the second round was our main aim but we don't think this is the end of things. We are not tired, we have more to give, wee are fresh and on home turf," he said.
"We are calm, we are on our way, we want to achieve good things."
"Against Turkey, I think that with our 12th man, the home crowd, we can hope for many more good things."
Troussier, who cut his teeth as trainer in Africa, said Friday's victory was the culmination of four years of hard work with the Japanese team. He said he won his first game with Japan in Osaka against another African side, Egypt.
"Personally, I owe much to Africa. This is a great symbol and a special moment for me," he said.
"It's a coming-together of Japanese football potential, which is not properly recognized, particularly in Europe."
"We have built up a momentum which has carried us forward from the first round, helped by the atmosphere from the home crowd.
"This momentum will carry forward into the matches that follow."
Japan explodes with joy
Japan exploded with joy and pride on Friday after its World Cup team made the nation's dream of a place in the second round of the soccer extravaganza come true.
Blue-garbed fans adorned with the "Hinomaru" national flag and chanting "Ni-ppon, Ni-ppon, Ni-ppon" rocked the stadium in the western metropolis of Osaka where Japan's blue-jerseyed, tinted-haired team beat Tunisia 2-0.
Even before the game was over, a crowd of jostling, ecstatic fans gathered on a bridge over Osaka's Dotonbori River, where by tradition baseball fans leap into the waters to celebrate a win.
Some, unable to contain their rapture, jumped in after Japan scored their its first goal.
"It's a historic victory. I am proud to be Japanese," said Hideki Iwamoto, a 27-year-old employee of a maker of outdoor goods as he left the stadium.
"This gives me the energy to forge on in my own job."
Japanese fans were thirsty for a reason to cheer after a decade of economic stagnation and political stalemate.
"It's amazing, amazing, amazing," said Miyugi Kume, an office worker in Tokyo. "I want them to keep on fighting."
Like co-hosts South Korea, Japan's team already had plenty to be proud of in the first World Cup to be held in Asia.
They had battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw against Belgium for their first ever World Cup point, then nabbed their first win, against Russia, laying to rest the memory of a dismal World Cup debut four years ago when they limped home after three defeats.
South Korea, which registered their first victory in six World Cup appearances against Poland and a draw against a feisty United States team, faces its own date with destiny later on Friday, when they square off with talent-packed Portugal.
Japan sticks with winning team
Japan coach Philippe Troussier stuck with the same team that beat Russia 1-0 for the host nation's final group H game against Tunisia on Friday as it bids to secure its first-ever second round birth.
Midfielder Junichi Inamoto will get a chance to add to his two-goal tally in front of an expectant crowd in Osaka, western Japan, while defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto kept his place after replacing Ryuzo Morioka for the Russia game.
As expected, playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata takes his place after recovering from a sore ankle.
Tunisia's three-way attacking partnership between Hassen Gabsi, frontman Ziad Jaziri and Slim Ben Achour has been disrupted by the suspension of Gabsi after he received two yellow cards.
Clayton comes into the team in a match the Tunisians must win by two goals if it is to qualify for the next stage.
Tunisia 0 Japan 2 - result
World Cup, group H
Scorers: Hiroaki Morishima 48, Hidetoshi Nakata 75
Tunisia - Riadh Jelassi 21, Khaled Badra 81
Halftime: 0-0; Attendance: 45,213
Tunisia (4-5-1): 1-Ali Boumnijel; 2-Khaled Badra, 6-Hatem Trabelsi, 12-Raouf Bouzaiane (20-Ali Zitouni 79), 15-Radhi Jaidi; 23-Clayton (7-Imed Mhadhebi 61), 13-Riadh Bouazizi, 18-Slim Ben Achour, 10-Kais Ghodhbane, 21-Mourad Melki (3-Zoubeir Baya 46); 5-Ziad Jaziri
Japan (3-5-2): 12-Seigo Narazaki; 3-Naoki Matsuda, 17-Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, 16-Koji Nakata; 20-Tomokazu Myojin, 5-Junichi Inamoto (22-Daisuke Ichikawa 46), 21-Kazuyuki Toda, 7-Hidetoshi Nakata (19-Mituso Ogasawara 84), 18-Shinji Ono; 11-Takayuki Suzuki, 13-Atsushi Yanagisawa (8-Hiroaki Morishima 46)
Match referee: Gilles Veissiere (France)
Linesmen : Frederic Arnault (France), Haidar Koleit (Lebanon)
Reuters contributed to this report.