GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 26 : Kensuke Nagai of Japan clashes with Inigo Martinez of Spain during the Men's Football first round Group D Match of the London 2012 Olympic Games between Spain and Japan at Hampden Park on July 26, 2012 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)2012 Getty Images
Glasgow – The opening ceremonies of the Olympics has yet to be held and already there is a shocking result in men's soccer.
Japan pulled off the upset of the young tournament, stunning gold-medal favorite and 10-man Spain, 1-0, in a Group D encounter at Hampden Park on Thursday.
Striker Yuki Otsu scored the only goal of the match, heading in a corner kick in the 34th minute, and the Japanese and goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made sure the lead held up. Spain had three players from its Euro 2012 championship side on the team, including Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Javi Martínez.
Spain is a notoriously slow starting team, having lost its World Cup opener two years ago before winning the title and tying in its first game at Euro last month before capturing the championships.
The Spaniards certainly did not help themselves when they were forced to play the final 49 minutes of the match with a man disadvantage after Inigo Martínez was awarded a red card by U.S. referee Mark Geiger for fouling Kensuke Nagai in the 41st minute.
As the second half progressed, an anxious Spain side pushed forward up field, allowing Japan on several counterattack opportunities. Had it not been for goalkeeper David de Gea’s saves, the final result might have been greater.
Asked what went wrong, Spain midfielder Mata replied, "the result went wrong."
Mata then praised the Japanese.
"They are a good team as well and they played as a group and they deserved to win," he said. "We did things better in the second half and we tried to score with 10 players and did everything to try and win."
Japan had never beaten Spain at any level until Thursday.
"We worked really hard and we will enjoy our victory," said captain and defender Maya Yoshida, whose team will play Morocco in Newcastle on Sunday. "We can get a lot of confidence from this."
Otsu, who was forced from the match at halftime with an injury, was just happy to walk away with three points. "We really wanted to win and it was really difficult for us towards the end," he said.
In other games:
Mexico 0, South Korea 0
Top-seeded and Group B favorite Mexico could not score any goals and wound up with only one point at St. James Park in Newcastle.
Both teams had chances to score and grab three points. Korean captain Koo Jacheol blasted a shot off the crossbar in the 55th minute and only seconds later Ki Sungyueng forced goalkeeper Jose Corona to make a leaping save.
"It was a very tough game," Ki said. "It was a tight game. We created lots of chances, but unfortunately didn't score."
The Mexicans squandered a chance in the 69th minute as Marco Fabian miskicked a corner kick and sent the ball over the crossbar from six yards.
"It's the Olympics. It's a big occasion so of course there was pressure," Mexico striker Giovani dos Santos said. "We had our chances, but we couldn't take them. It was always going to be difficult against Korea."
Honduras 2, Morocco 2
The Hondurans squandered a great opportunity to pick up three points, losing the lead in the 67th minute and played a man up over the final 18 minutes in the Group D match at Hampden Park.
Morocco's Zakarya Bergdich was awarded a straight red card in the 72nd minute, but Honduras could not score the go-ahead goal.
"The draw was a fair result, but this will make it difficult [for us] against Japan and Spain," Honduras coach Luis Suarez said. "It will not be easy in this tough group."
Abdelaziz Barrada gave the Africans a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute, but striker Jerry Bengston, who recently signed with the New England Revolution (Major League Soccer), scored the first of his two goals in the 56th minute. He added a penalty kick nine minutes later.
Zakaria Labyad, however, spoiled the Hondurans' hopes of a win by scoring in the 67th minute.
Morocco coach Pim Verbeek saw his team survive the challenge of playing through Ramadan, a Muslim holiday in which adults fast during the day. The holiday doesn't end until Aug. 12, a day after the soccer gold-medal match.
"I wasn't sure if they could play for 90 minutes," Verbeek said. "Maybe they would just be able to play for 60 or 70 minutes. But I can be very proud of the way they played 95 minutes. The players had not eaten since 2:30 in the morning and had to play the game at midday, so I am proud of them. But I wish I had one week more."
Great Britain 1, Senegal 1
The hosts could not hold the lead and settled for a disappointing draw in the Group A game at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Craig Bellamy found the back of the net for Great Britain off a Ryan Giggs free kick in the 20th minute, but Moussa Konate equalized from 12 yards in the 82nd minute.
"We worked hard today and we gave our best," Senegal's Mohamde Diame said. "After the first goal we still believed we could get back into the game and we were really pleased to get the draw in the end. I'm so proud of my team today - we worked hard and deserved to get something."
Brazil 3, Egypt 2
The Brazilians looked like they were going to run the African side out of Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, striking three times in the first half, but Egypt made a game of it by scoring twice in the final half of the Group C encounter.
Oscar, who signed with Chelsea on Wednesday, set up the first two goals. He fed Rafael for a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute and Leandro Damiao, who tallied from 10 yards in the 26th minute before Neymar headed home the third goal off Hulk's left-wing cross in the 30th minute.
"We gave too much respect to Brazil because they are Brazil," Egypt captain Momhammed Aboutrika said. "The next game we will be better because we will play like Egypt."
The Egyptians made Brazil sweat in the second half as Aboutrika put in a rebound off the post in the 52nd minute and Mohamed Salah raced past Marcelo in the penalty area before beating goalkeeper Neto in the 76th minute.
"I am very happy. We did the most important thing, which was to win the game," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said. "The only thing I am disappointed with is that we didn't maintain the high level of performance in the second half."
Uruguay 2, United Arab Emirates 1
The Uruguayans did most of their sweating in the opening half, when the UAE took its lead before the South American side rallied with two second-half goals at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Substitute Nicolas Lodeiro broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 56th minute to boost the South Americans in the Group A game.
"I am pleased because I needed to score a goal to get my confidence going," Lodeiro said. "My goal helped the team earn a victory, so that makes it easier to work from now on. A draw or a defeat would have made things difficult for us."
After Ismaeil Matar gave the UAE the lead in the 23th minute, Luis Suarez set up both of his team's goals -- Gaston Ramírez's in the 42nd minute and Lodeiro's 14 minutes later past keeper Ali Khaseif.
Suarez, who plays for Liverpool, was booed by the crowd. "They boo me at almost every stadium in England, so this doesn't worry me in the least," he said. "I am used to it,"
Belarus 1, New Zealand 0
Belarus made its Summer Games debut a memorable and historic one, defeating New Zealand in a Group C match in Coventry.
Dmitry Baga scored on the stroke of halftime, heading the ball home when goalkeeper Michael O'Keeffe, who attends Fairfield University, failed to catch a corner kick.
"We are bitterly disappointed," New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen said. "We had the majority of possession and created some really good chances.
"Generally most games are decided by mistakes and that was the case. We restricted them to long shots. Going a goal down was tough to take."
Gabon 1, Switzerland 1
The Africans managed a draw in their Olympic debut in a Group B contest in Newcastle.
Admir Mehmedi lifted the Swiss into the lead in the fifth minute, but Pierre Aubameyang equalized for the Africans on the stroke of halftime.
"You go into every football match looking for three points but today one point was better than nothing," Gabon coach Claude Mbourounot said. "The game was open and both teams had chances. It was a valuable experience for us."
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He is in Columbus to cover Sunday’s game, and can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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