Japan falls short vs. Israel at U-20 World Cup, ending tournament run

Japan falls short vs. Israel at U-20 World Cup, ending tournament run

Japan’s run at the 2023 U-20 FIFA World Cup has come to an end after a 2-1 loss to Israel in their final group stage game.

Fagiano Okayama’s Isa Sakamoto, on loan from Gamba Osaka, gave the Young Samurai Blue a lead in first half stoppage time when he rushed in to knock home a loose ball in the Israel box.

A draw would have been enough to put Japan in second place and book their spot in the knockout stages, so Sakamoto’s goal had them sitting pretty. Things got even better in the 68th minute when Israel were shown a red card and forced to play the rest of the match down a man.

Unfortunately, Japan’s fortune would end there. Israel equalized in the 76th minute then scored the winner in stoppage time, overtaking Japan in the group and sending the Young Samurai Blue home.

Japan showed outstanding form at various points in the competition. Their tournament opening win over Senegal, led by F.C.Tokyo’s Kuryu Matsuki’s goal, got them off on the right foot. They then played great against Colombia and deserved a win, but bad luck and a Matsuki penalty off the crossbar condemned them to a loss. Finally, the loss to Israel ended their World Cup dream, but the talent of the largely J.League-based contingent of young players made their mark and will fuel the senior team in years to come.