PRE – Welcome to one of the most interesting group stage clashes in this tournament. It didn’t look that way on paper coming into the tournament, but Cameroon’s showing against Ecuador has piqued interests, even if the South American side have shown themselves to be the furthest thing from contenders. Japan were solid in their opening win against Switzerland despite not really impressing. The holders will know that anything but a convincing three points here might raise more questions ahead of further challenges.
4’ – My eyes are already weeping at trying to figure out numbers on Japan’s pink numbers on neon yellow shirt scheme. Off a corner, Utsugi has a hard shot blocked.
6’ – GOAL – Japan (Sameshima) – Japan scores a quite brilliant team goal. After a bit of pinging it around at the far sideline, Naho crosses into the box, where Ogimi side heels it to an unmarked Sameshima on the far post. Two marking Ogimi, none marking Sameshima. Seems like a problem.
7’ – Japan have clearly read the playbook, as they swarm Enganamouit as she gets the ball a handful of yards from the box. She passes back for Feudjio, who shoots on the run, sending a piledriver just wide of Kaihori’s goal. Tremendous hit.
12’ – Japan continue to probe as Cameroon defend decently, but the African side having problems keeping possession thus far.
14’ – Cameroon have a chance, as they intercept in midfield and quickly hoof it towards the frontrunners who have the Japanese backline beaten for pace. Ngono Mani crosses to the far post, but it’s away from any green shirts. Onguene collects and fires back in, but Kaihori collects at the near post.
17’ – GOAL – Japan (Sugasawa) – Cameroon in real trouble now, as they come unstuck on a corner kick. Miyama gets it back after a short attempt and crosses to the far post at the goal line. Four Japanese players are held onside by Leuko on the six-yard line. That includes Sugasawa, who jumps highest over Ngo Ndom to thump a header home.
22’ – Cameroon’s attack is rudimentary, but it’s still proving very hard to deal with for Japan. A turnover in midfield enables a long ball to Enganamouit, who easily easily outpaces the Japanese defense. Japan cuts off the angle though, forcing her into a tight angle shot that’s blocked by Kaihori.
25’ – Enganamouit again at the center of Cameroon’s attack as she receives and spins at midfield. The forward plants a stiff arm onto Utsugi to gain space, hops over her tackle, and wins a corner off Sameshima. Great individual effort. Kaihori catches the corner with no difficulty.
27’ – Cameroon have to defend another Miyama free kick. The midfielder swings it over, and Ngo Ndom bats it away when she really should catch, but there aren’t any Japanese players waiting to pounce.
28’ – Oh, the shot selection. Ngono Mani drops into midfield and threads a beautiful ball to Onguene, who races past the Japanese defense towards the endline but decides to take a shot towards the far post instead of trying to cut back to a wide open Enganamouit. The effort goes well wide.
29’ – Cameroon are direct, brutally so, but it’s working, as another ball drops to Onguene near the endline, but she puts her cross behind for a goal kick.
29’ – Utsugi’s looking a little dodgy at right-back, as she clangs a backpass in bizarre fashion, giving it right back to Onguene who passes back to Enganamouit who makes a selfish decision to rocket it into the stands.
33’ – Onguene wins a corner despite being double marked, and Enganamouit rises high for a header on the delivery. It’s soft and right to Kaihori though.
41’ – Cameroon so nearly halve the deficit. Onguene takes a pass in midfield and is off to the races, picking out Enganamouit despite being fronted by roughly half the Japanese team. She powers through a tackle and somehow picks out Ngono Mani right above the six and open for a shot…which she screws wide. Gotta think Cameroon isn’t going to get many better chances than that.
43’ – YELLOW CARD – Cameroon (Ngo Mbeleck) – The Cameroonian attacking midfielder is booked for persistent infringement after ripping Utsugi down.
HT – Perhaps the two goal lead flatters Japan, who haven’t been tremendous offensively but have made the most of their limited opportunities, with some help from some Cameroonian breakdowns in the box. The story has been more about their team defending, which has been excellent at swarming the frontrunners from the African side and forcing them into low-percentage looks. Still, Cameroon’s big names have looked dangerous when able to get some space, so this one certainly isn’t done and dusted yet.
46’ – SUB – Ngo Mbeleck, now on a yellow card, comes off for Francine Zouga for Cameroon to refresh their attack.
52’ – Onguene brings the crowd to its feet, nutmegging Sameshima on her way into the box, but Miyama does well to shield her off until Kaihori can slide and claim.
54’ – SUB – Former Seattle Reign star Naho comes off for Shinobu Ohno.
56’ – Ohno looks to be trapped on the sideline, but she manages to muscle her way around Feudjio, crossing towards goal. Ngo Ndom is able to catch with little interference though.
58’ – Yeeeeouch. Ohno slides in to take the ball off the foot of Feudjio and does so but also manages to stick both sets of studs into the Cameroonian’s foot. Unsurprisingly, Feudjio stays down in pain.
60’ – Zouga, with Edgar Davids-esque shades, fires a shot a little high and wide. Going to need better than that to cut into the lead.
61’ – The refs, who haven’t been bad by WWC standards, erroneously whistle Sugasawa for an offside call, snuffing out what would’ve been a solid chance for Japan.
62’ – SUB – WNY Flash player, Ajara Nchout comes on for Ngono Mani.
62’ – Zouga takes another shot from range and lifts it off-target. Japan sinking back into the box and goading Cameroon into a lot of long efforts.
64’ – SUB – Hello, Homare Sawa. The ageless midfielder comes on for Mizuho Sakaguchi, who’s had a quiet match.
65’ – Enganamouit posts up Kumagai and spins past her, using her pace to rush by her and Utsugi. She bends a ball to Nchout on the opposite side, but Japan again flood the top of the box with numbers. Zouga tries a tame shot, but she can’t navigate it through the flood.
66’ – Nervy moment for Cameroon, as a deep cross is seemingly handled by Ngo Ndom, but she slaps downward instead of catching. She gets away with it though, passing to a defender as Cameroon breathe.
71’ – Absolute chaos in the box for Japan of a Cameroon free kick at the far edge of the area. Nchout has a couple of shots blocked, and Japan have serious trouble clearing their lines before Onguene fires an off-balance shot wide. Scramble, scramble, scramble for the Japanese backline.
72’ – SUB – Onguene comes off for Augustine Ejangue. Don’t know about that one. Seems like Cameroon’s going to need Onguene and Enganamouit on the pitch to make something happen.
82’ – OK, so it’s petering out a bit. Japan look content with their lead to a certain extent, while Cameroon seem to be running out of ideas as to how to break down the opposing defense.
83’ – What chances are there are coming from distance, and even though Zouga solves Sawa’s pressure with a drag back, her shot is from about twenty-five yards out and easily tipped wide by Kaihori. Head tennis on the corner until Japan clear.
84’ – Terrible giveaway by Ohno in her own end, leaving a backpass short, with Nchout swooping in. She promptly wins a corner off of Sawa. It comes to little.
85’ – SUB – Here comes the bus for Japan. They bring off center forward Sugasawa for defender Megumi Kamionobe.
85’ – Japanese backline goes crooked for a moment, with Kinga holding Enganamouit onside, which is as problematic as it sounds. The big forward tries to curve a ball into the path of Nchout in the box, but it’s ambitious, with Japan clearing. Enganamouit comes up gimpy. Cramping, I suppose, as she’s run her heart out.
89’ – Cameroon are just gassed at this point. Enganamouit has a chance for a free header in the box but makes little meaningful contact and takes a while to get back onside. Zouga has a chance to loft a corner in seconds later, but she puts it beyond the goal line.
90’ – GOAL – Cameroon (Nchout) – They probably deserve that on the day. One of the Japanese center-backs steps to pressure Enganamouit, who’s dropped into midfield to possess, but the pressure’s lazy, and the big forward plays the ball through the vacated space on the backline, letting Nchout run onto it. Kinga comes to try and slide it away, but Nchout’s shot gets away and beats Kaihori near post. Nice goal, but disappointing defensive breakdown by Japan.
90’ + 2’ – Japanese hearts in mouths, as they almost blow it late. They don’t get tight enough to a Cameroon cross by Meffometou Tcheno, and sh epicks out Enganamouit, who is shockingly open in the box. The big forward tries to direct a header across the goalmouth inside of the far post but sends it just wide.
FT – Japan holds on as Norio Sasaki probably looks like the calmest guy in the arena following what was close to an epic comeback by the African side. They were ruthless in punishing defensive errors in the first half but were probably a little too passive in the second half as Cameroon forced the issue. Some of Cameroon’s shot selection and offensive decision making still leave a lot to be desired, but they’ve got enough of a cutting edge to trouble a lot of teams. A match in which the loser’s stock still rose, though they need to defend better to beat this type of opposition. You’d still fancy Japan to have more to show after this display though.