Japan U20 edge out 'wasteful' South Africa U20

Japan U20 edge out 'wasteful' South Africa U20
epa05978359 Ritsu Doan (L ) of South Africa vies for the ball with Grant Margeman ( R ) of Japan during the group stage match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between South Africa and Japan in Suwon, South Korea, 21 May 2017. EPA/KIM HEE-CHUL

by Austin Ditlhobolo

Sunday May 21, 2017. 12:11

Japan came back to defeat South Africa 2-1 in the opening game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup Group D at the Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon on Sunday morning.

The victory takes the Young Samurai Blue to the top of the group table with three points, while South Africa are placed at the bottom without a single point.

The Young Samurai Blue threatened first when Kakeru Funaki delivered a good cross into the Amajita box, but Koki Ogawa directed his header wide of the target just five minutes into the match.

However, Grant Margeman made no mistake at the other end two minutes later as he beat the Japan offside trap and fired home with a deflected effort to make it 1-0 to South Africa.

It should have been 2-0 to Amajita in the 16th minute when Malebogo Modise played a delightful cross into the Japan box, but somehow an unmarked Keletso Makgalwa header wide of the target.

It was end-to-end stuff and the Young Samurai Blue came very close to scoring when Ogawa hit the woodwork with Amajita goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto well beaten in the 18th minute.

Japan kept pushing for the equalizing goal and Ogawa should have scored in the 29th minute when a cross found him unmarked in the Amajita box, but he headed wide of the target from close range.

The last chance of the first-half fell for Luther Singh four minutes later. The Amajita striker beat his marker, but he fired wide from close range. South Africa were 1-0 up during the half-time break.

But parity was restored just three minutes into the second-half as Yuto Iwasaki's low cross was turned home by Ogawa, who made it 1-1 for Japan following a good move by the Young Samurai Blue.

Amajita pushed forward in numbers in the 53rd minute as they looked to restore their lead. Wiseman Meyiwa's powerful low cross was pushed away by Japan goalkeeper Ryosuke Kojima.

A great defence splitting pass by Japan substitute Takefusa Kubo sent Ogawa through on goal, but Amajita shot-stopper Mpoto came off his goalline to deny the striker two minutes before the hour-mark.

Chances were coming thick and fast for both teams, and Margeman then played a good pass for Amajita striker Singh, whose effort was blocked inside the Young Samurai Blue box in the 65th minute.

The Young Samurai Blue took the lead for the first time seven minutes later as Kubo played delightful low cross for Ritsu Doan, who fired past Mpoto in Amajita goal to make it 2-1 to Japan.

Pressure was mounting on the Amajita defence as Japan substitute Keita Endo unleashed a powerful low shot in the 77th minute and Mpoto produced a fine low save to deny the Young Samurai Blue midfielder.

However, Amajita took control of the match towards the end of the match as the Young Samurai Blue were happy to sit back and contain the South Africans in the closing stages of the encounter.

Ultimately, Japan ran out 2-1 winners over South Africa. Amajita will now take on Italy on Wednesday, while the Young Samurai Blue face Uruguay on the same day.

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