Requiem for goal-shy Nippon
© Foto-net

Japan are heading for home after only two matches, one of the first sides eliminated from the Men's side of the Football Tournament in Beijing. Drawn into one of the most fearsome groups of these finals, the Asians' haul of zero points from two matches does not accurately reflect the level of football they've produced here.

"I can't believe this Japanese team is going out already," declared Hertha Berlin forward Solomon Okoronkwo after his Nigeria side had to be at their best to win out 2-1 in Tianjin on Sunday. "They played some brilliant, technical football. It's really a mystery."

Lack of scoring punch has been the big problem with Yasuharu Sorimachi's team here in Beijing. Substitute Yohei Toyoda scored the side's only goal late in the loss to Nigeria, but it was more a matter of good fortune than design. In their first match the skilful East Asians created a number of chances against the Americans, but failed to find any purchase in front of goal.

"Our system was a little bit off in the first game," outstanding flank player Atsuto Uchida told "We tried to tighten it up, but we never quite got to the point where we were able to create chances and keep teams under constant pressure."

In the wide positions the Japanese featured two of the tournament's finest exponents of the art of wing play. Uchida on the right and Michihiro Yasuda on the left were a constant thorn in the side of both the USA and the Nigerians.

One the eve of what will be their last match at these Olympic finals, Uchida confided that Japan need to find their own style, their own way of playing. "We are often compared with the Brazilians and the Europeans, but we need to locate a kind of Japanese football that works for us. We like to play the ball on the ground and move it around, and we need to focus more on scoring goals," He said.

"For us the collective approach is the most important thing," Uchida, a key member of the exclusively U-23 team went on. "But we need to find a way to score goals more consistently."

The Japanese, elegant, organised, technically brilliant at times, but ineffective on the whole, will be hoping to leave China with at least a point for pride when they take on the Dutch in Shenyang on Wednesday. "Even though our Olympic journey is over, we will go out in our last match and try to play the football we know how to play, and try to get a result and a few goals too," coach Sorimachi said.

Foppe de Haan's Dutch, who need a win to reach the quarter-finals and have yet to play the kind of football expected of European champions, can consider themselves warned.