Skip to content

Get to your DVRs as soon as possible, because that Italy-Japan match was a classic

Jun 19, 2013, 8:44 PM EDT

Italy's Sebastian Giovinco scores the winning goal during their Confederations Cup Group A soccer match against Japan at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife Reuters

Take an aging team, fly them half-way across the world, and ask them to play on short rest. On the other side, put a set of highly skilled, tactically adept players who’re more than willing to run all day. On the surface, it sounds like a mismatch, but when you one team’s Italy and the other’s Japan, it turns into a formula for fireworks.

And that’s exactly what happened today in Recife, where Italy scored last to claim three points in a 4-3 shootout that could have just as easily seen the Samurai Blue salvage their Confederations Cup hopes. But after a match with seven different goal scorers and 37 shots, Japan was cast aside with Mexico, both teams at the bottom of Group A after losing their first two matches. Italy move top of the group with Brazil, each team’s 2-0-0 record assuring them a place in the semifinals.

It was easily the most-entertaining match of the young tournament, one that challenged memories to find a more engaging, top-quality competitive international in recent time. Amid early Japanese dominance, Italy’s second half resurgence, Japan’s late push, and the Azzurri’s countering winner, controversial officiating and the woodwork’s intervention may have ended any debate as to why we have the Confederations Cup.

The Japanese thoroughly controlled the first 35 minutes, finally going ahead through Keisuke Honda, who converted from the spot after a fortuitous call gave Japan a 21st minute reward for their early dominance. A beautiful Shinji Kagawa pivot on a bouncing ball 12 minutes later saw the Manchester United star volley a second past Gianluigi Buffon, leaving Italy overwhelmed while the underdogs assumed control:

A late first half header from Daniele de Rossi made it a game before half time, with Italy building on their momentum with early second half goals from Atsuto Uchida (own goal) and Mario Balotelli. The latter, a penalty kick conversation, came after a disputed hand ball call, Japan’s luck seemingly evening out after an innocuous Buffon tackle was deemed penalty-worthy in the first half.

Over the match’s last half hour, Japan resumed the dominance they showed at the onset, a tired Italian side strained to preserve a result after Shinji Okazaki’s header made it 3-3. But as Japan pressed for a winner, Okazaki and Kagawa finding the post and crossbar as Buffon flailed at Japan’s salvos, Italy found a single, trademark, decisive moment, a rare moment of attacking verve allowing Sebastian Giovinco to slot home the winner in the 86th minute.

Japan had a final equalizer rightly waved off for offside, but the final scorer proved beside the point once full time was blown. Particularly in tournament like the Confederations Cup, there have to be more important things than the final score. On Wednesday, the spectacle on display at the Pernambuco Arena was enough to justify any match, tournament, or outcome. And wherever that magic came from, find it, save it, and be ready to give us more.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 3-0 Chivas USA

    Jul 26, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    Two goals in the first half hour allowed the Rapids to cruise at DSG Park.

  2. Fraizer Campbell gives Tony Pulis a new option at Crystal Palace

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-NORWICH-CARDIFF

    The 26-year-old will try to improve an attack that averaged fewer than one goal per game last season.

  3. Omar Gonzalez targeting Monday return to LA Galaxy’s defense

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT

    Gonzalez Getty Images

    Gonzalez resumed full training on Friday with the hope of starting in Seattle.

  4. Everton willing to set club transfer record to bring Lukaku back

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

    Lukaku Getty Images

    Roberto Martínez is ready to spend close to $35 million to secure the 21-year-old’s return.

  5. Arsenal on the verge of signing Calum Chambers from Southampton

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

    calum_chambers Getty Images

    Medical with Gunners and fee agreement has Chambers on the verge of departing for North London.

  6. Knee injury will keep Lallana out of Liverpool’s Premier League opener

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    www.liverpoolfc.com www.liverpoolfc.com

    LCL injury could sideline former Southampton star for six weeks.

  7. Houston acquires Honduran international Luis Garrido on loan from Olimpia

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

    luis_garrido AP

    23-year-old brings another ball-winner to the Dynamo midfield.

  8. Bebé done at Manchester United; Portuguese attacker joins Benfica

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    ManchesterUnited

    One of Alex Ferguson’s most notorious transfers has found a new home with Benfica.

  9. Dutch left back Patrick van Aanholt moves from Chelsea to Sunderland

    Jul 25, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    patrick van aanholt

    Five years of development by the Blues ends with the 23-year-old’s departure.

  10. A quick guide to who’s come and gone from Premier League teams

    Jul 25, 2014, 3:11 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Chile AP

    From Sanchez and Luiz to Suarez and Sidwell, a breakdown of the top names to have come and gone from the Premier League.

  11. Saints exodus continues with Lovren medical at Liverpool

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Things are looking dicey at Southampton, where yet another player is set to skip town.

  12. Didier Drogba has officially rejoined Jose Mourinho at Chelsea

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.42.00 PM

    A one-year move and mutual respect between the coach and player could make this a relatively-shrewd move for the Blues.

  13. Revs send DP on loan to Argentina, prepping for incoming attackers

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v New England Revolution Getty Images

    Jerry Bengston is going on loan to Belgrano, while New England president Brian Bilello is working on a number of attacking options.

  14. Who is Houston’s new World Cup mid? Reports say it’s this Honduran

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:24 AM EDT

    Honduras v Ecuador: Group E - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Dynamo president Chris Canetti made waves when he said the team would be adding to the DaMarcus Beasley signing soon with a World Cup starter.

  15. Maradona blasts Argentina team, says Messi was better when he was boss

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 21: Diego Maradona looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao on June 21, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Getty Images

    World Cup final, so what? Diego Maradona is not pleased with the way his nation played in Brazil.

  16. ‘Hacked’ video shows that French defender to City move is all but done

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    France Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Barring something wild, young Eliaquim Mangala is taking his French national team talent to Manchester.

  17. FIFA says World Cup will stay in Russia, “can achieve positive change”

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    FBL-WC2022-FIFA-QATAR-LABOUR-SLAVERY-UNIONS Getty Images

    It can be the soccer tournament that changes Russia forever (so implies FIFA)

  18. Arturo Vidal may not stay at Juve; Shuts door on Manchester United

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:57 AM EDT

    FBL-ITA-SERIE A- JUVENTUS-PALERMO-SCUDETTO Getty Images

    The 27-year-old Chilean is very much in demand, but also happy at a Champions League club.

  19. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 3-1 Montréal Impact

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 AM EDT

    Olmes Garcia

    Olmes Garcia’s second half double lifted RSL.