Saturday, June 3, 2006

Japan 2 Germany 2

May 30, Leverkusen, Germany

Japan held on to tie host Germany in a May 30th pre-World Cup friendly. Finally, Japan's long-suffering fans have a glimmer of hope under the helter skelter leadership of Brazil legend Zico.

Germany looked slow; or, put another way, Japan looked sharp. Japan went up 2-0 on two tallies courtesy of Bundesliga striker Naohiro Takahara, who blazed past large, lumbering German defenders. Hidetoshi Nakata and Atsushi Yanagisawa probably should have netted as well.

In the second half, however, Germany dominated. It pulled back on goals from Klose and Schweinsteiger with about 15 minutes remaining. That familiar sense of dread came on strong: another classic choke staring us in the face. The usual collapse was only minutes away.

However, contrary to all expectations, in the waning minutes Japan took the match to Germany in a wide-open game. Masashi Oguro missed two point-blank opportunites, and the weary-looking Germans were somewhat fortunate not to lose at home to the Blues.

At long last: signs of hope. However faint.

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