¹ The actual attendance figure was considerably higher, as plenty had been admitted for free. This can clearly be seen from the footage.
Only a week after celebrating their long-awaited Copa América title on home soil, Brazil had invited Japan to Rio de Janeiro as their solitary pre World Cup qualification opponents. While the Asians were hardly a footballing powerhouse, not even within their own continent, the fixture did perhaps look a little out of place in the eyes of any neutrals. However, there is every reason to believe that the opposition had been chosen with a view to the start of their World Cup qualification campaign the following weekend. As for the Japanese, they had bowed out of the World Cup qualification a month earlier, when they had lost 2-0 in North Korea, and thus failed to progress through to the final group stage.
“The rain stopped. The storm ended. The sky opened and the sun shone. When the Seleção came to Rio, it could unravel all its brilliance.”
National team coach Sebastião Lazaroni waxed lyrical in the wake of the Copa América title. And who could blame him? He had led the country to its first continental title in 40 years, and in the process gone a long way in eradicating the sour memories of Uruguay’s 2-1 win at the Maracanã to claim the 1950 World Cup. To the day 39 years since that painfull loss, Brazil beat the same opposition 1-0 to claim the championship.
With Japan making their first ever visit in Brazil, this was the solitary game to prepare for the upcoming World Cup qualification, commencing only a week later. There was no respite.
During the week leading up to the game, Lazaroni had announced which 25 players were in the pool for the upcoming World Cup qualification. From the total of 24 players who had been in their Copa América squad during the tournament (while the allowed quota of players was 22, they had been permitted to replace the injured Ze Teodoro and Tita with Josimar and Bismarck for the final phase), three players had been axed: defender Ze Teodoro and forwards Baltazar and Charles. Coming into the mix were defenders Jorginho (Flamengo), Edivaldo (SãoPaulo) and Mozer (who had just joined Olympique Marseille from Benfica), as well as fit-again striker Careca (Napoli). The latter had been out of the Copa América squad with an injury to his left thigh.
Italy based forward Müller (of Torino) was rumoured to be in the reckoning, too, but he was ultimately not selected, with Lazaroni quipping that ‘he’d not trained during the Copa América’. It was revealed that Müller had been encouraged to ‘train vigourously’ for two weeks ahead of the Copa, something which the forward had failed to do. He’d subsequently disappeared, with Lazaroni assuming that Müller had prefered vacation to national team participation. This saw the 23 year old omitted from the Copa América squad, and, ultimately, also from the pool of players which would form Brazil’s four World Cup qualification squads.
There had been selection doubts regarding both Branco and Careca during the week leading up to the game. The former had a light groin injury, while the Italy based ace striker was still recovering from the thigh injury which had kept him out of the Copa América. Taffarel had caught a cold, and had not trained during the morning session the day before. Acácio had been ready to deputise. Centre-back Ricardo Gomes, who had captained the team throughout the Copa, was suffering from abdominal muscle pains, and had been omitted from the squad list.
Following their disappointing exit from the World Cup qualification last month, Japan had played no less than five matches on their current tour of South America, albeit inofficial ones against club teams. They had played three times in Argentina, losing to both Independiente (2-0) and Estudiantes (2-1), as well as drawn 2-2 with Boca Juniors, and subsequently losing 1-0 to Coritiba and 2-1 to Joinville in Brazil ahead of this full international in Rio.
Retrieving information about the squad with which they had travelled to South America has proved difficult. However, a number of the players which had negotiated their World Cup campaign were also present here.
Arnaldo Cesar Coelho hardly needed introduction. He was currently 46 years of age, and had obviously earned his fame following his handling of the 1982 World Cup final between Italy and West Germany. He’d also overseen the second phase encounter between England and West Germany in the same tournament, while his solitary task in the World Cup four years earlier had been the group stage clash between France and Hungary (3-1). In the 1988 Olympic football tournament, he’d taken charge of a single match: the group stage fixture between the Soviet Union and USA (4-2).
His most recent assignments had come during the 1989 Copa América, where he’d refereed in no less than four fixtures. The stand-out one among them had been the final phase match between Uruguay and Argentina (2-0).
Astonishingly, even one of his linesmen had been honoured with refereeing during a World Cup final: 50 year old Romualdo Arppi Filho had taken charge of the Argentina v West Germany contest in Mexico three years earlier. The other assistant, José de Assis Aragão, aged , had a Copa Libertadores final as his greatest achievement, when back in 1982 he’d officiated in the first leg of Peñarol v Cobreloa (0-0). He’d furthermore done a couple of qualifiers for the 1982 World Cup in the CONCACAF zone.
The friendly would appear to be in the safest of hands, although the neutrality perspective seemed very faint.
There were none.
Vasco da Gama’s Estádio São Januário was built back in 1927, and most likely had a capacity around, or just short of, 40,000. Fans of the club had been admitted for free, while supporters of Vasco’s arch-rivals, Flamengo, had opted to stay away.
|1 Taffarel||sub h-t||23||Internacional|
|2 Mazinho||sub h-t||23||Vasco da Gama|
|3 Mauro Galvão||27||Botafogo|
|5 Branco||sub h-t||25||Porto|
|6 André Cruz||20||Ponte Preta|
|7 Bebeto||sub h-t||25||Flamengo|
|8 Dunga||sub h-t||25||Fiorentina|
|9 Valdo||sub h-t||25||Benfica|
|10 Careca (c)||sub h-t||28||Napoli|
|11 Romário||sub 63′||23||PSV Eindhoven|
|12 Zé Carlos||on h-t||27||Flamengo|
|13 Josimar||on h-t||27||Botafogo|
|15 Paulo Silas||on h-t||23||Sporting Lisboa|
|16 Alemão||on h-t||27||Napoli|
|17 Renato Gaúcho||on h-t||26||Roma|
|18 Cristóvão||on 72′||30||Grêmio|
|19 Bismarck||on 63′||19||Vasco da Gama|
|20 Tita||on h-t, sub 72′||31||Pescara|
|21 Edivaldo||on h-t||27||São Paulo|
|19 Shinichi Morishita (c)||28||Júbilo Iwata|
|2 Katsuyoshi Shinto||28||Mazda|
|6 Takumi Horiike||23||Yomiuri|
|7 Masami Ihara||21||Tsukuba University|
|8 Takashi Mizunuma||sub 84′||29||Nissan Motors|
|9 Masaaki Mori||28||Fujita Industries|
|10 Masanao Sasaki||27||Honda|
|12 Atsushi Natori||27||Urawa Reds|
|13 Satoru Mochizuki||sub 65′||25||NKK|
|21 Hisashi Kurosaki||21||Honda|
|23 Kenta Hasegawa||23||Nissan Motors|
|11 Yoshiyuki Matsuyama||on 65′||22||Furukawa Electric|
|16 Mitsunori Yoshida||on 84′||27||Júbilo Iwata|
We’re being treated to the view of the Japanese team, clad in all-red, entering the pitch with a big Brazilian flag, which they carefully carry between themselves until they reach the centre-spot. This could well be seen as an act of paying homage to their opponents for lifting the Copa América the previous week, or indeed as an act of courtesy for having the opportunity to come head to head against such an illustrious opponent for the very first time. Having waved the flag for a few seconds, they very respectfully fold it together, before handing it over to a member of the ground staff. A true act of tact and respect indeed.
They are followed by the Brazilian team, which enters in a more conventional manner, where they come running on to the pitch one after another and line up next to each other to accept the acclamation from the fans who are present. While some of the ground sections are more or less vacated, there’s still a decent number of people who have turned out to see their heroes prior to their embarking on the path towards Italia ’90.
The pair of team captains, the returning Careca for the Brazilians and goalkeeper Morishita for the Asians, arrive in the centre-circle to meet up with the referee and for the coin-toss. The home team skipper is the victorious party and gets to elect, upon which Careca chooses to kick-off for the first half. Morishita decides that he wants his team to start in the opposite half, and so the teams switch sides before the game can finally get under way. It is Careca and his expected forward-partner Romário who eventually get the ball rolling, with the third ace striker, Bebeto, also in the vicinity.
In the days leading up to the game, Brazil coach Lazaroni had revealed that he’d wanted to employ all his three major strikers. This had clearly added some spice to the build-up, and with the game under way, one was looking forward to seeing how Bebeto and Romário would welcome the addition of their acclaimed, Europe-based colleague Careca. The latter, in the absence of Ricardo Gomes, had been given the captain’s armband, and he was one of two players coming into the starting eleven, with young centre-back André Cruz the other.
Brazil had indeed changed their formation around in order to accommodate their front three, leaving midfielder Silas on the bench, with only Dunga and Valdo operating in their engine room. The game was taking place on a dry, bumpy pitch, and at times players needed an extra touch to get the ball under control. This did seem to apply to a greater extent for the visiting jogadores rather than the home side’s.
Those who had arrived expecting to see a landslide win for the canaries had probably hoped to see some early goal action. Japan had hardly impressed during their recently held World Cup qualification campaign, and seven of the players who had featured from start in their final qualifier, the ultimately decisive 2-0 loss away in North Korea, were also starters here. One of those coming into the side was goalkeeper Shinichi Morishita, and clearly a big player despite his lack of game time during the qualification, he’d been given the responsibility to captain the team.
Morishita was called into action on a number of occasions during the opening quarter of an hour. Despite their emphasis on defence, sporting a 5-4-1 formation, the Japanese were unable to prevent the Brazilians from getting efforts in, and in addition to making a routine save from a 25 yard Dunga effort and a fine catch low down to his left to stop Aldair’s left-footed shot from sneaking in, Morishita also proved his capability in reading the game, as he came off his line to quickly thwart Bebeto, who was attempting to run through and take the ball around the ‘keeper. His positioning seemed to be one of Morishita’s strong points.
While some might have thought that the Japanese would just lay down and surrender to their mighty opponents, they were far from overawed by the occasion. They did attempt to build some security through their ranks, holding on to the ball, playing it safely from one to another, building up slowly rather than taking the quick route forward. They would, at least initially, look to involve right-back Masaaki Mori when coming forward, as he was particularly keen to make inroads along his flank. With Kenta Hasegawa the midfield player with the most right-sided bias, this pair would try to work themselves into attacking positions from which they could feed the ball into the area. However, with few players making forward runs in the centre, defending any crosses against seemed a more than managable task for the Brazilian defence.
Maintaining defensive stability had always been the priority for Lazaroni during the recently held continental championships, and he still would not give up on his three-man strong central defensive unit despite this being a home friendly against a team which had failed to progress past the first group stage of the Asian section of the World Cup qualification. Mauro Galvão remained their libero in the continued absence of Carlos Mozer, and on this occasion he was accompanied by the youthful André Cruz to his left, coming in for Ricardo, as well as the elegant Aldair to his right. The trio had the highly promising goalkeeper that was 23 year old Taffarel behind them.
Just like during the Copa América, Mazinho and Branco were working Brazil’s flanks, with both given plenty of freedom to come forward and offer width high up the pitch. While Branco was quite a natural player down his side, usually providing useful crosses with that left foot of his, Mazinho did not quite possess that natural ability. He was very adept, however, through his flexibility and his sound close control of the ball, taking a man on and accelerating past him.
In the centre of midfield, Dunga and Valdo were obviously well-known to one another, though working in a tandem rather than as part of a central midfield three must have felt somewhat different. Dunga, as you’d have expected, was the slightly deeper of the pair, with Valdo offering himself as a creative outlet. You’d very often see from Dunga his tendency to spray passes from midfield with the outside of his right foot, and in some circumstances this had seemed unnecessary, almost like it had been expected from him, rather than it being efficient. The light-footed Valdo would have a slight left-sided bias, looking to make use of the channels along this part of the pitch. This saw him coexist with Branco.
The front three had Bebeto leaning towards the right, while Careca and Romário were more filling in through the centre. Neither appeared very willing in working their socks off for the cause of the team, something which saw the Japanese defenders able to transport the ball out from their own half on those occasions when they won back possession. Careca at times dropped just off a striker’s position, offering to come slightly deeper in order to engage with both Dunga and Valdo from an advanced midfield position. He would then look for short passes in the forward direction for either of Romário or Bebeto, although especially the former failed to show much in terms of enthusiasm for making runs.
The Japan team
As for the visiting side, they sat back and were compact. Their manager, Yokoyama, had said in the wake of the game that they were realizing that the Brazilians would come with those three forwards, and so he’d been taking measures accordingly. Ahead of their captain goalkeeper Morishita, they had a three man central defensive unit in which the young Masami Ihara was working as the spare man. Ihara seemed a sound reader of the game, and as they were playing with a pair of man-marking centre-backs ahead of him, he would also quite frequently engage in duels with either of the opposition’s front three. Ihara was also looking confident in possession, and had ventured forward early on.
To his advanced right and left were Takumi Horiike and Katsuyoshi Shinto respectively. This brought the former often in contact with Romário, while Shinto would generally look in the direction of Bebeto. Horiike would usually refrain from keeping possession, rather moving the ball on towards a team mate as soon as he could, while Shinto was less afraid to take an extra touch or two. Part of a deep-lying defensive unit, they seemed confident enough in these early stages, as they did not leave much space behind them for the opposition to try and expose them for pace.
Masanao Sasaki was working their left hand side defensively, and he was clearly more restricted in his forward approach than opposite full-back Mori. Sasaki would look to keep Mazinho fairly quiet, and he appeared to have an appetite for making tackles. Whether or not this was a wise approach remained to be seen. In the first 15 minutes, he’d conceded a corner and a throw-in. As for Mori, he was not that directly challenged defensively, with Branco often looking to engage himself in play in field rather than down along the wing. Darting forward was, however, a feature of Mori’s game, and he was making use of some erratic runs to try and work himself into crossing positions. One such had ended up in Taffarel’s hands on the near post, while he’d also set midfielder Mochizuki up for a 24 yard shot on target, caught safely by the ‘keeper, three minutes in.
Japan’s midfield had a diamond-like shape to it, with 25 year old Satoru Mochizuki working through the centre, albeit behind the slightly more advanced Takashi Mizunuma. The latter would later be refered to by commentator João Saldanha as their star player. Mochizuki appeared to be playing in a measured manner, looking for short, secure passes rather than attempting anything extravagant, while Mizunuma, their designated set-piece taker (this would generally mean corner kicks), did appear to have in him the ability to look ahead for options. However, coming up against top class opposition in the shape of Dunga, the Japan number 8 wasn’t exactly bossing proceedings.
If the understanding of the Japanese midfield being diamond-shaped was correct, then they had Hasegawa operating to the right and Atsushi Natori towards the left. Neither player were in typical wide positions, although the former was looking to combine with full-back Mori, and so would more often than his left-sided counterpart engage in play towards his flank. He was also good at closing the opposition down, and this appeared to be a big part of his instructions. Natori was clearly less expressionate when his team were in possession, but he also seemed to have that knack of wanting to close the opposition down whenever they were chasing the ball.
As the lone figure up front, the young Hisashi Kurosaki had an unenviable task. Confronted with some big, powerful central defenders, Kurosaki would at times feel the need to make runs into either channel in order to try and get away from Aldair’s or André Cruz’ attention. He did seem mobile and agile, but despite his decent size, he had a light frame, and would bundle to the ground from the faintest of touches against. This made it more or less impossible for him to hold on to the ball up front and bring others into play.
Hosts display greater level of urgency
The game is far from a classic, but the hosts, as expected, do manage to arrive at a good few opportunities. However, it is not as if they portray themselves as particularly efficient. They appear to struggle to cope with the Japaneses’ marking-style, which is more man-orientated than what the Brazilians are probably familiar with, but once they manage to shift the ball around at pace between themselves, they are able to carve out openings.
While the home side have the upper hand more or less throughout, there is a good, prolongued spell for about ten minutes from the 20th minute or so where they string together some decent moves, and where even movement off the ball seems improved. Brazil work themselves into some favourable positions, but they still lack that cutting edge in front of goal. This comes as a surprise considering what talent there is on display.
Japan ‘keeper Morishita has his work cut out, though he is well-positioned, and rarely needs to pull out any extraordinary saves; most of his catches are comfortable and straightforward. He also displays again his ability to come off his line and thwart an opposition player about to run through, and this time it is centre-back Aldair who has got to the ball first ahead of Mizunuma a few yards inside the visitors’ half of the pitch. As the defenders track each their forward, space opens up ahead of the home defender, who is able to stroll through the centre. Morishita bravely ducks down at his feet as Aldair is about to take the ball around him.
There’s a good few efforts coming from long range, too: Mazinho, Valdo, Branco and Dunga all have shots, but either they’re very manageable for the goalkeeper, or they’re off target. Elegant midfield schemer Valdo also attempts a spectacular volley with his left foot from inside the area, although this, too, is straight at Morishita. Careca is wasteful when set up for a shot from inside the area by Romário, hitting his low drive into the side-netting. And Romário himself tried to poke one into the far corner with the tip of his right boot having accepted a nice through-ball from Valdo. The opportunities were many.
While the visitors do struggle to keep up with the hosts when Brazil elect to attack with a bit of pace, they still probably do not feel overly worried. There is still some languidity remaining to the hosts’ play. Perhaps did they party hard in the wake of their Copa América triumph. If so, this friendly is a perfect fit a week before the start of the World Cup qualification.
Through to half time
Despite being inferior for long spells, Japan do manage to cling on to that clean sheet for the time being. Having been under the cosh for a while, they must have been relieved that the Brazilians’ upped tempo gradually subsided, and that the bonanza of chances nearly came to a halt. As the first half was entering its latter stages, the overworked Japanese defence could try and preserve the ball among themselves, ensuring that they were able to rest a little in the process.
While Mori along the right hand side had been more or less the solitary defender offering forward support up until the 35 minute mark, left-back Sasaki would be making ventures into the opposition’s half on a few occasions through to half-time. He seemed to have a fine left foot on him, with which to swing crosses into the centre, and having seen a previous effort headed away, he was able to measure a precise ball from the left hand channel after a Mizunumi right wing corner had been headed out into his direction. Sasaki proceeded to find lone striker Kurosaki completely unmarked eight yards out, but probably astonished that no one was in his vicinity, and that the goal was gaping in front of him, the 21 year old got a rush of blood to his head, and his header went spectacularly six-seven yards to the left of the upright. Dreadful miss, but a lucky escape for the hosts, who had failed remarkably in their marking.
With the half-time scoreline 0-0, the visitors must have gone in for their tea in quite a buoyant mood. Had they expected to avoid goals against when coming up against the recently crowned continental champions of South America? Brazil, on the other hand, could not be too pleased with what they’d shown, even if they’d produced enough in front of goal to break the deadlock. Still, their fearsome-looking attack had failed to gel like one could’ve expected.
Players from both teams had warmed up on the pitch during the half-time interval, though while the home side would have made a number of changes already from the word ‘go’, the Japanese would kick the second half into action sporting the same eleven which had played during the first half. They must have been quite pleased with the 0-0 scoreline.
For the Brazilian team, no less than seven players had been left behind in the dressing room after the break. Almost the entire team had been substituted, although that would’ve had plenty to do with the fact that Lazaroni would wish to see some of the more fringe-like players in action, not just that some of his star players had looked to have a limited appetite for this fixture.
Zé Carlos had replaced Taffarel between the sticks. The three centre-halves remained the same, though both wide players had been changed: For Mazinho at right-back came a very familiar face from the 1986 World Cup: Josimar, the man with those famous goals against Northern Ireland and Poland in that tournament. Well remembered for his attacking contribution, it would be interesting to see what kind of shape he was in now three years later. Across from him, for Branco at the left hand side in midfield, came Edivaldo. The 27 year old São Paulo player was appearing at full international level for only the third time, and for the first time since featuring in a couple of pre-’86 friendlies (against Finland and Yugoslavia).
In midfield, both of Dunga and Valdo were gone, and had been replaced by Alemão and Paulo Silas. They were hardly players who needed further introduction. Like for like replacements in case Brazil would continue in that 3-4-3 formation, you’d think. However, that remained to be seen. Only Romário among the starting front three had come out for the commence of the second half, and so Bebeto and captain Careca had been replaced by Renato and Tita. Would they both slot into attacking roles, or would Tita, considered an attacking midfielder, rather take a step back into midfield, and thus bring back Lazaroni’s favoured 3-5-2 formation?
Who had taken over the captaincy, though? You’d have thought either Mauro Galvão or Alemão the most likely candidates, but it would appear to be Tita who had received that distinction. Through the somewhat grainy pictures, something resembling an armband can be spotted across his left arm.
Kick-off is left for striker Kurosaki, who had missed that gilt-edged opportunity four minutes from half-time, and midfielder Mizunuma to deal with. Let’s see if there’s a goal in these last 45 minutes.
After the restart
Following this high player turn-around during the interval, one could’ve been forgiven for thinking that the home side’s attacking threat would decline, or at least that it would take a while for the new eleven to gel. It is not so. Japan, who look very vulnerable when an opponent darts past his man, leaving them very exposed through the centre, fail to stop the hosts from lining up further goalscoring opportunities, and how the Brazilian team does not take advantage to move in front in the scoring charts is difficult to understand.
The home side have turned out in a 3-5-2 for the second half, abandoning their attempt at 3-4-3, which had not gone according to Lazaroni’s hopes. Granted, they had obviously had a number of chances even during the opening 45 minutes, but you’d still have expected more from such a trio of forwards than what had been displayed before the break.
The skipper for the second half, Tita, had indeed slotted into a midfield position, and the composition of their engine room three was this (right to left): Silas – Alemão – Tita. This saw the Napoli man at the base, although against such limited opposition, he was still given the opportunity to come forward, something which he accepted from time to time. Among the high-profile foreign players, Alemão wasn’t looking uninterested, like could be said of, for example, Romário. Still, the midfielder who was more visible during the opening quarter of an hour after the break appeared to be Tita. The former Pescara player was surrounded by Edivaldo and also quite often Renato Gaúcho, as Brazil time and again made advance down their left hand side. This trio of players looked to enjoy playing with each other.
Along their right hand side, Brazil offered very little. Josimar’s performance at the right hand side of midfield, at least so far, left those memories from his 1986 escapades quite distant. While it could possibly be so that Lazaroni had spotted a weakness in Japan’s right hand side defensively, and thus had wanted his players to mainly attack down the left, Josimar remained on the periphery of the proceedings. Ideally, what had been seen from the left-sided trio would be mirrored through Silas, Josimar and perhaps also Romário opposite. It didn’t happen.
The Netherlands based striker had not looked at his most inspired during an often tepid first-half performance on his behalf, although he had interacted with Careca on a couple of occasions. Now, and especially after failing to hit the target when presented with an open goal to aim at following a Morishita rebound from an Aldair effort on 49 minutes, Romário didn’t look bothered. He was more or less at walking pace, not keen at all to lure Shinto, as the left-sided among the three Japanese centre-halves, out of position.
Left-sided player Edivaldo, who had taken over from Branco, left a decent impression. At least he was more than willing to give a good account of himself, and perhaps force himself into the picture with the start of the World Cup qualification just a week away. He kept popping up along the left hand side, and Brazil time and again looked to this area when they went on the attack. Tita, looking light-footed, also engaged in play around Edivaldo, and it was from these areas that they had created most of the second half opportunities so far.
While Romário’s chance which had gone begging was one which definitely should’ve been converted, there were other efforts which could’ve gone in, too. Silas, otherwise relatively quiet, had made a fine run into the area from the left, and had left-footed chipped the ball goalwards, only to see it headed away by Shinto more or less on the line. Renato had wanted a penalty on 55 minutes after making it towards the byline inside the area to the left, although he’d tumbled too dramatically to the ground when challenged by Horiike for Mr Coelho to be deceived.
Renato was keen to make off the ball runs, and was quite busy during the first 15 minutes of the second half. A couple of minutes after that failed attempt to get a penalty, he once again cut into the area from the left, and half put a shot in, half a cross, which from an angle rolled agonisingly just half a yard wide of the upright. Shots from Tita, André Cruz, Edivaldo and Alemão had all failed to cause much trouble for Morishita. While Brazil were pushing for that opening goal, it was not as if their ingenuity was perfection. They tore into the opposition, but yet could not find that elusive bit of quality which would’ve rewarded their efforts with a goal. In many ways, the game was a peculiar spectacle. While so dominant, they remained very wasteful.
Visitors unchanged tactically
Japan’s second half formation remained the same, with those five at the back and four across midfield. They harboured few attacking intentions of their own, although very sporadically they accepted the invitation from the hosts when Brazil’s pressure became too lenient. This saw the visitors arrive in wide positions outside the home side’s penalty area, although never with a sufficient number of players to duly worry the canary defence. Any cross was effectively dealt with, and was rather seen as the start of the next Brazil wave of attack.
On 61 minutes, there looks to be an innocuous enough challenge from Horiike on Romário deep inside Japanese territory. However, the forward looked to have found an excuse to withdraw himself from the action, and having taken a couple of hesitant steps, he went to ground and remained there. By all means, it could’ve been serious enough, but with the lack of appetite that he’d shown, especially since the start of the second half, one could indeed suspect that his motives had been ulterior. After some medical treatment, Romário was carried off with a possible injury to his left heel. Worrying enough with the trip to Caracas a matter of days away. His replacement was teenage forward Bismarck.
While Romário had been taken off relatively swiftly, as play had not been halted for more than a minute, the break still seemed to take some of the fluency out of the home side’s attacks. Well, to the extent that they had been fluent anyway. At least it would appear difficult to assemble anything reminiscent of rhythm in the wake of the recommence, as Bismarck took up a position up front. He was not highly visible in the minutes just after coming on, and it was his forward partner Renato who had the next shot goalwards when his effort from 18 yards drifted to the right of Morishita’s goal on 65 minutes.
With the second period reaching its halfway point, there’s a big clash of heads inside the Japanese area. Mauro Galvão lifts a ball in the direction of Tita, who had made a run into the area, although preoccupied with watching the ball’s flight, the second half Brazil captain does not notice centre-back Ihara, who has snuck up behind him. As the ball comes back down, the Japan spare man catches the back of Tita’s head with his forehead. While the defender appears a little groggy for a few seconds, he’ll soon be back up. It is quickly obvious that Tita had come out worse in the collision. He was seen to by the medical team, and players from both teams gathered around with worried looks on their faces. The treatment continued for more than two minutes, with Tita becoming the second home player to be carried off on the stretcher. He’s subsequently replaced by 30 year old forward Cristóvão. Such an unfortunate end to his candidacy for a place in the Venezuela squad. He would in fact be taken to a hospital for observation, and he’d soon be diagnosed with a severe concussion.
(While this is just a technicality or formality, the captain’s armband does not appear to have been passed on from Tita following his injury. There is no visual of either Brazilian wearing the armband in the remaining game time, and there is also nothing mentioned by the commentators about it.)
At last: goal!
With the most recent acquisition only having been on the pitch for two minutes, Cristóvão turned provider for the hosts’ long-awaited opening goal. They had certainly not lacked in opportunities, and finally it arrived through the aid of the two players who had been brought on during the second half. Josimar, who was somewhat more active along the right towards the game’s latter stages, fed Cristóvão a short ball to the right outside the area, and the forward’s cross found Bismarck on the far post, where the teenager headed expertly into the ground and then into the back of the net, eventually succeeding in finding a way past the until then impenetrable Morishita. It was his first in country colours.
After Tita’s unfortunate injury (we were being told that he was already on his way in an ambulance to the Samaritano hospital near the Botafogo district of Rio de Janeiro), Brazil remained in 3-5-2, as it turned out that Bismarck was brought back into Tita’s midfield position. However, the Brazilian midfield saw plenty of individual changes in positions, with all of Alemão, Silas and Bismarck displaying loads of movement and flexibility. The hosts appeared to raise their game again, with Cristóvão (right) and Renato (left) being the two forward options. It seemed just reward for the former to be thrown into the action as he’d scored three times for o Seleção earlier in the year.
Rare attempt from visitors
Japan were still only very sporadically able to make advance into the opposition’s territory, as they were struggling to commit a lot of players forward. They were focused on denying the Brazilians space inside their own half, something which probably zapped them of energy which could otherwise have been reserved for darting forward. However, substitute Matsuyama had looked inspired, and arrived in a crossing position along the right hand side with some ten minutes left for play. While his cross was ultimately a poor one, a Silas mistake inside his own half saw the Japanese recycle the ball, and Mizunuma and Matsuyama combine in setting Hasegawa up for a snapshot from just inside the area, which is comfortably held by Zé Carlos.
About six minutes prior to the end, manager Yokoyama allowed Mizunuma to take a seat, and Mitsunori Yoshida was brought on in his place, seeing the game out in that supposedly creative midfield role.
Hosts end the game well on top
This would not prove to be the catalyst for a more productive spell for the visitors, as a nearly rampant home side went on the attack time and again. They produced various chances to increase their tally, but they could still not find another way to outwit the impressive Morishita. Edivaldo had a couple of efforts, one from a free-kick outside the area which sailed over, another to the left inside the box, which was dragged diagonally just wide, while Silas struck poorly to the right of target from 25 yards.
Renato, who definitely in spells had looked keen to make an impression, had played a one-two with Cristóvão just outside the area, and attempting to make it into the box, he was pegged back by Horiike, something which gave the hosts the opportunity to strike from 20 yards. Cristóvão was allowed to have a go, although his effort was poor and cannoned into the defensive wall.
There are further opportunities for the hosts when Silas is played into the area, and he makes it to the byline and attempts to find Cristóvão in the centre, only to see his cut-back find a pair of Japanese defenders legs. Silas, also looking lively, was then played in by Bismarck, somewhat fortuitous, and he was able to control the ball in a central position inside the area. One on one with Morishita, the midfielder attempted a chip, which the ‘keeper saved by remaining tall. By now, the home side’s players were beginning to think that they would not find another path to goal, despite their dominance for such large parts of the game.
The game runs through to 93,18, which had to do with the injuries to both Romário and Tita. After another Edivaldo pop, this time straight at Morishita, early in time added on, there’s almost a replica of the goal on 48 minutes, as Renato this time got to the byline, having switched momentarily across to the right. Cristóvão had taken up a position on the far post, identical with Bismarck during the goal, and he, too, did the correct thing by heading into the ground following the precise cross, although this time Morishita was able to get to the header and clear it away with the aid of Shinto on the line.
Time up, job done. Just the solitary goal, but it was a display of such dominant proportions that the margin of victory ought to have been far greater. The main concern was the status of the two injured players. Would Romário and Tita be ready in time for Venezuela?
A more or less full-strength Brazil, which boasted an impressive-looking front three with Romário, Bebeto and Careca featuring together for the very first time, would tear into their visitors, although that particular trio of forwards would rarely impress. They did, as a team, look sluggish in parts, and their nearly constant pressure also owed a great deal to the fact that Japan had taken such defensive measures by arriving in a deep 5-4-1 formation.
The hosts had a spell of 10-12 minutes midway through the half in which they were really looking like they meant business, but they could not find a way past goalkeeper Morishita, who was always so well-positioned. The visitors were nothing in terms of an attacking force, although they definitely should’ve scored through lone striker Kurosaki, who was left alone to head inexplicably several yards wide minutes from the break.
Seven players were substituted during the break for the hosts, as they were reverting back to Lazaroni’s favoured 3-5-2 formation. They were looking busy along their left hand side, with Edivaldo, having taken over for Branco, particularly engaged. Still, they would be unable to find that goal which they’d been threatening to score all game until forwards Bismarck and Cristóvão had been added to the eleven following unfortunate injuries to Romário and Tita. In fact, that pair of substitutes had combined for the game’s only goal.
Despite the constant dominance, Brazil had rarely exerted themselves; they had not needed to. The Japanese players had displayed some individual quality, but they were simply not good enough collectively to be able to threaten the home side’s goal.
1 Taffarel 6.6
(12 Zé Carlos 6.7)
2 Mazinho 6.9
3 Mauro Galvão 7.1
4 Aldair 7.3
5 Branco 7.2
(21 Edivaldo 7.5)
a fine outlet along the left hand side, and thus he made a big impression during the half which he played. Had he done enough to force his way into the World Cup qualification squad?
6 André Cruz 7.1
7 Bebeto 6.7
(17 Renato 7.0)
8 Dunga 6.9
(16 Alemão 7.0)
9 Valdo 6.7
(15 Silas 7.2)
10 Careca 6.6
(20 Tita 6.9)
(18 Cristóvão -)
11 Romário 6.5
despite hardly looking motivated at all, he still displayed a couple of decent touches. Couldn’t be bothered to run much, and did not excel along with the other two ‘super strikers’
(19 Bismarck 7.1)
19 Morishita 7.9
did exceptionally well to prevent a Brazil win by a big margin. Thanks to his positioning, he rarely had to pull out big ‘saves for the benefit of the audience’. Still a couple of cracking stops. Easily the ‘man of the match’
2 Shinto 7.1
6 Horiike 7.2
7 Ihara 7.2
8 Mizunuma 6.7
(16 Yoshida -)
9 Mori 6.8
10 Sasaki 6.6
12 Natori 6.8
13 Mochizuki 6.8
(11 Matsuyama 6.9)
21 Kurosaki 6.6
23 Hasegawa 6.6