Keisuke Honda scored late in the first half to lift Japan to a 1-0 World Cup victory over Cameroon Monday in Group E action from Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The main story line
Honda's goal allowed the Japanese to earn a historic victory.
This is Japan's fourth tournament appearance — having made its debut in 1998 — but its only two previous World Cup victories came on home soil, in 2002.
The knock against the Japanese has always been that they can't win away from home, but the Blue Samurai finally broke their road winless streak.
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How did they do it? By soaking up the pressure and effectively containing Samuel Eto'o. The lightning-quick Cameroonian is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the world, but he was a mere spectator on Monday, unable to conjure up his usual magic.
For all of its possession, Cameroon looked pretty ordinary, and although Stephane Mbia hit the crossbar with a long-range effort in the final minutes, the Africans rarely looked dangerous when venturing forward and couldn't breach the Japanese defence.
The winning goal
In the 39th minute, Daisuke Matsui played a dangerous cross into the middle of the box from the right wing. The ball just sailed over the heads of two Cameroonian defenders and landed at the feet of Honda, who coolly slotted the ball home from close range.
Turning point of the game
Honda's goal was a cruel blow for the Cameroonians, as they dictated the pace of the game up to that point. After the sucker-punch, the Africans looked as though they had the life knocked out of them.
What this result means
With the win, Japan moved into a tie with the Netherlands (three points apiece) for first place in Group E. Cameroon and Denmark are at the bottom of the group.
The Japanese and Dutch square off Saturday in a crucial match, with the winner all but wrapping up first place and a berth in the second round. A tie would still leave both nations in a good position to move on.
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Cameroon must quickly rebound before its next match, against the Danes on Saturday, a match that both teams must win in order to have a realistic chance of advancing to the round of 16.
Man of the match
It's hard to pick out one player in such a dour and defensive game, but Honda took his scoring chance with aplomb.
Save of the match
Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima came up with a fantastic diving stop in injury time, parrying away an effort from Achille Webo from close range to preserve the win for Japan.
The Japanese perspective
"As a team we had very little good luck in our warmup games going into this match. But as a team we were thinking: 'Don't be down. Be positive. Go for it."' — midfielder Keisuke Honda
The Cameroonian perspective
"The biggest problem for us was that we had a good team opposite us." — midfielder Jean Makoun
Japan takes on The Netherlands in Durban on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 a.m. ET), while Cameroon meets Denmark on the same day in Port Elizabeth (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET).