Qantas Under 23s Narrowly Defeated by Japan

The Qantas Under 23s have been narrowly defeated by the Japanese Under 23 National Team in Kobe tonight. With the match looking destined to end in a 1-all draw, a deflected goal from substitute Shinji Okazaki in the 89th minute gave the home team the victory.

The Qantas Under 23s have narrowly been defeated by the Japanese Under 23 National Team in Kobe tonight. With the match looking destined to end in a 1-all draw, a deflected goal from substitute Shinji Okazaki in the 89th minute gave the home team the victory.

As stated in the lead-up to the match, Qantas Under 23s coach Graham Arnold included over-age players Jade North and Archie Thompson in his starting line-up along with goal keeper Adam Federici who made his debut for the Qantas Under 23s. Arnold also gave starts to striker Nikita Rukavytsya and midfielders Stuart Musialik and Billy Celeski, resting Adrian Leijer, James Troisi, Neil Kilkenny, Mark Bridge, Ruben Zadkovich and Tando Velaphi who were all in the starting eleven for the match against China last Sunday.

After an even opening half hour, the Qantas Under 23s took the lead in the 34th minute when Nikita Rukavytsya took on his two defenders and was able to slip a square ball to an unmarked Archie Thompson in the middle of the field. Thompson received the ball at speed and took the ball into the box to calmly slide his shot underneath the advancing Japanese goalkeeper Kaito Yamamoto.

Japan equalised in the 41st minute through Shinji Kagawa who was able to get on the end of move that started when Atsuto Uchida put a through ball into the penalty area, which was expertly dummied by Tadanari Lee on the edge of the box. Takayuki Morimoto picked up the pass and then played a short ball to Kagawa, who was level with the penalty spot. Kagawa pushed his shot to the corner of the goal past a diving Adam Federici.

Kristian Sarkies came close to giving the Qantas Under 23s the lead soon after the start of the second half when he was targeted by a Billy Celeski cross from deep on the right. Sarkies flicked the ball to the near post which drew a fine reflex save from Kaito Yamamoto.

Both teams traded opportunities throughout the second half but none caused too many problems for either goalkeeper. As the half progressed, both coaches made numerous substitutions which changed the style and tempo of play in the final quarter of the match.

Late in the match, the Qantas Under 23s conceded a foul on halfway, with the resultant free-kick quickly taken by Japan down the left side of the field. Michihiro Yasuda found himself in the corner unable to cross and played a ball back to Hiroyuki Taniguchi. Taniguchi then launched a speculative cross to the far post through a crowded penalty box. Shinji Okazaki deflected the ball past an unsighted Adam Federici, with the ball then hitting the inside of the post and rebounding into the goal for the match winner.

Following the match Graham Arnold was proud of the performance of his players but again disappointed with the final score line.

“A couple of lapses in concentration cost us the game tonight," Arnold said. "But I-d prefer that errors like these occur during these friendly matches and we learn from them rather than during the Olympics where these types of mistakes will have more severe consequences.

“Making five changes late in the game disrupts the shape of the team. But at this stage it-s crucial that we have 18 match fit players for the Olympics. We are still building and the performance was very promising when you consider we had a new central defensive partnership and strike force.

“The biggest positives to come out of the match are the performances of Archie Thompson and Jade North.

“Archie showed everyone the quality of player that he really is. His goal was a just reward for the effort he put in and the eighty minutes of football in tough humid conditions will help boost his match fitness going into the Olympic Games. I was also very happy with the combination that Archie had formed with Nikita up front. They looked very dangerous.

“Jade North also showed great leadership at the back and I-m happy with the way that he has fitted in with the team and our style of football. His experience will be key to our performance at the Olympics and I-m very comfortable with that fact.

“Japan are a very fit team and all their players are in the middle of their domestic competitions. It was the type of hit out we needed in these hot conditions.

“Now we head off for a week in South Korea to continue our acclimatisation process and tournament preparations.

“We are still 14 days away from our opening match against Serbia and that is still our focus,” concluded Arnold.

The Qantas Under 23s will travel to the Korea Republic tomorrow to continue their pre-Olympic Games Training camp and will face the Korea Republic Under 23 National team at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Thursday 31 July (Kick-off 9:00pm AEST).

Match Details

Japan Under 23s 2 (Shinji Kagawa 41-, Shinji Okazaki 89-) Qantas Under 23s 1 (Archie Thompson 34-)

Thursday 24 July 2008 Home-s Stadium, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

Qantas Under 23s line-up: 1.Adam Federici (gk), 2.Jade North (3.Adrian Leijer 72-), 4.Stuart Musialik (27.Neil Kilkenny 68-), 5.Mark Milligan (C), 6.Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 7.Kristian Sarkies (11.James Troisi 62-), 10.Archie Thompson (8.Mark Bridge 80-), 12.Matthew Spiranovic, 13.Trent McClenahan,14.Nikita Rukavytsya, 17.Billy Celeski (15.Ruben Zadkovich 79-)

Substitutes Not Used: 18.Tando Velaphi (gk), 21.James Holland, 20.Nigel Boogaard, 22.Leigh Broxham

Yellow Cards: Milligan (13-) Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Min Hu Lee (Korea Republic) Assistant Referees: Kil Suk Choi (Korea Republic) & Min Byoung Choi (Korea Republic) Fourth Official: Masaaki Iemoto (Japan)

Crowd: 17,185