South Africa’s Under-23 Rio Olympics-bound football team went down 4-1 to their Japanese counterparts in Japan on Wednesday night.
The occasion was the annual Kirin Challenge Cup in Matsumoto and the host nation ran the visitors off their feet after leading 3-1 at the break.
It seems clear that the wear and tear of the recent COSAFA Cup followed by a lengthy travel schedule of more than 24 hours, definitely took its toll and at the end of the day SA weren’t at the same level as Japan.
From the very first minute, South Africa were put under pressure by the home team as the visitors tried to get to grasp with a variety of challenges.
For their part, the Japanese looked fresh and took advantage of the weary visitors as they tore them apart in the latter part of the first half to take the match away from the visitors.
Coach Owen da Gama’s charges absorbed the early pressure and drew first blood the lead in the 29th minute when a Japanese defender fouled in the box and the referee awarded a penalty which Gift Motupa coolly slotted home.
But it was a matter of time before the visitors buckled under pressure. Seven minutes later, Japan equalised when striker Shoya Nakajima converted a cross but it was mostly due to captain Rivaldo Coetzee’s error
That goal got the home crowd going and Shinya Yajima beat Tebogo Moerane for pace in the 44th minute to give the hosts their second goal and Shoya Nakajima got his brace a minute later after beating ‘keeperJody February.
At half-time, the SA coach made four substitutions when February was replaced by Gumede, Malepe came on for Rikhotso and up front the Pirates duo of Masuku and Motupa were replaced by Moseamedi and Kutumela.
Gumede conceded his first goal in the 47th minute after a communication error in the South African defence allowed Takuma Asano to score the fourth goal for the hosts.
The two teams then exchanged fierce raids but there were no further goals and 4-1 was the final outcome.
South Africa starting XI: Jody February, Abbubaker Mobara, Tebogo Moerane, Rivaldo Coetzee (c); Tshepo Rikhotso; Mothobi Mvala, Deolin Mekoa, Thapelo Morena, Aubrey Modiba, Menzi Masuku, Gift Motupa
Substitutes: Reyaad Pieterse (GK), Nkosingiphile Gumede (GK), Tercious Malepe; Siphesihle Stuurman, Thembela Sikhakhane, Paseka Mako; Thembinkosi Lorch; Thabiso Kutumela; Judas Moseamedi