In football, anything can happen.
Japan defeated heavily-favored Spain 1-0 on Thursday in each club’s first match of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Besides Brazil, the Spanish are considered the team to beat in London.
Well, the Japanese changed that quite quickly, and they now have control of Group D.
Tweets of the Day
Bleacher Report's own Michael Cummings questioned both clubs' uniform choices before the match.
Spain and Japan both wearing blue. How does that happen?— Michael Cummings (@MikeCummings37) July 26, 2012
Despite Japan's triumph, Team USA hero Alex Morgan wasn't impressed by their ability to put the ball in the net.
Just finished watching Spain v Japan game...Japan put 1 in the net, but their finishing was just embarrassing. Sometimes it only takes 1.— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) July 26, 2012
Japan's defense played a key role in the victory, and WhoScored.com highlighted one of their top defenders.
Gotoku Sakai: Japan's 21 year-old defender made 4 interceptions per game for Stuttgart last season - only 4 Bundesliga players averaged more— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 26, 2012
Yuki Otsu snuck in the game-winning goal off a corner kick to shock the football world.
Grades for Key Spain Players
David De Gea: C
De Gea recorded a solid four saves in the match. When it mattered most, though, he couldn’t deflect Otsu’s shot attempt. While he didn’t get much help from his defense on the play, the goal still cost Spain the game.
Juan Mata: D
Mata was the only Spaniard who launched more than a single shot at Shuichi Gonda. Of the three shot attempts that he took, two of them were on goal as well. If he would’ve only been able to fire one past Gonda, Spain wouldn’t be in the dangerous position that they’re in.
Grades for Key Japan Players
Shuichi Gonda: A
Gonda didn’t have too eventful of a day, but he refused to let himself fall asleep. Japan’s defense prevented the Spanish from taking an overwhelming number of quality shots, but the good looks they did get off were smothered by Gonda. He recorded three saves, denying each of the three shots on goal Spain attempted.
Yuki Otsu: A+
Otsu turned what would’ve been an impressive effort to force a draw into a jaw-dropping victory for Japan. According to Bovada, the Japanese had the second-highest odds to win Group D only behind Spain. Thanks to Otsu, though, Japan is now in the driver seat.
Deciding Factor: Unbreakable Defense
Japan’s defensive unit should be proud of their performance on Thursday. They allowed Spain to attempt only six shots in the entire match. Comparatively, the Japanese took 12 shots. In the end, the significant differential paid off in their favor.
Man of the Match: Yuki Otsu
Who else? Otsu snuck behind the Spanish wall and played the ball off the ground perfectly to squeeze the ball by an unprepared De Gea. Of course, given the point-blank position Otsu fought for in front of the net, the goaltender was pretty much helpless.
Japan will look to ride their momentum to a win against Morocco on Sunday, July 29, at 12:15 pm EDT. Later in the day, Spain will attempt to bounce back vs. Honduras at 2:45 pm EDT.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.
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