Keisuke Honda scored in the first half Monday to lead Japan to a 1-0 win over an uninspired Cameroon in Group E of the World Cup.
The win is Japan’s first at the World Cup on foreign soil, and puts the Japanese at the top of Group E along with the Netherlands, which beat Denmark 2-0 earlier Monday.
After a sloppy opening 30 minutes at the Free State Stadium, Japan broke the deadlock in the 39th when Daisuke Matsui’s curling cross from the right drifted over Cameroon defenders Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia and fell to Honda at the back post. The striker neatly controlled the ball and slotted it past goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou.
“As a team we had very little good luck in our warm-up games going into this match,” Honda said. “But as a team we were thinking: ‘Don’t be down. Be positive. Go for it.”’
Despite an attack led by Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon never really challenged Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima. The Africans struggled to control the ball and generate any rhythm up front, and even when they managed to put a few passes together, the buildup was usually wasted by poor crosses.
“When the game was over I felt great relief,” Kawashima said. “Cameroon has powerful players and we managed to hold them off. In the last 20 minutes I knew I would be under tremendous pressure. Something was going to happen.”
Cameroon’s first shot on goal came in the 37th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting dropped the ball at the top of the box for Eyong Enoh, but Kawashima easily handled the midfielder’s low drive.-AP