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Own goal boosts Japan 3-1 over Americans in world championships.

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Thursday, April 8, 1999) -- Spurred by the gift of an own goal, Japan jumped to a lead and held on for a 3-1 decision over the United States today in the FIFA World Youth Championship before 13,600 at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium.

"Technically, the Japanese were a very good team and deserved the win today," U.S. coach Sigi Schmid said. "We gave them too much space to work and in this type of competition you cannot afford to give space. They did very well with their offensive chances."

In Group E’s first match today, Cameroon (2-0, 6 points, plus-2 goal differential) benefited from an own goal for a 1-0 victory over England (0-2, 0 points, minus-2). The final first-round matches are Sunday here with Japan (1-1, 3 points, plus-1), playing England at 11 a.m. (ET), followed the U.S. (1-1, 3 points, minus-1) taking on Cameroon.

The top two teams in each of the six preliminary groups advance to the round of 16 as do the four third-place sides with the best records.

The U.S. will advance as one of the top two teams if (1) it defeats Cameroon and Japan does not beat England (2) it defeats Cameroon and has a better goal differential than either Japan (if it defeats England) or Cameroon; or (3) it ties Cameroon and Japan loses to England.

The U.S. will finish in third place and possibly advance if (1) it defeats Cameroon , Japan defeats England and the it finishes third in goal-differential (2) it ties Cameroon and Japan ties England; or (3) it loses to Cameroon and Japan does not lose to England.

"I'm still very confident that we will advance to the second round," Schmid said. "Cameroon will be a very difficult opponent, but we know that our goals in this tournament ride on playing well on Sunday. We will be ready."

Japan took the lead tonight for good in the 11th minute when the U.S. put a ball in its own net. A combination of passes put the ball on the foot of midfield standout Shinji Ono. From 25 yards away and to the right of the American goal, Ono curled a dangerous ball into the penalty area. U.S. midfielder Nick Downing, retreating on the play, inadvertently redirected the ball past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

American strikers Taylor Twellman and Chris Albright put attacking pressure on Japan throughout the first half and keeper Yula Minami barely got his fingertip on Albright’s header in the 20th minute, tipping it over the crossbar to preserve the lead.

But it was Japan that increased its advantage to 2-0 in the 52d minute. Ono made the critical pass, playing a long, penetrating pass through the heart of the American defense to a sprinting Naohiro Takahara. Takahara ran onto the ball and hit an 18-yard bullet into the top left corner.

The U.S. narrowed its deficit to 2-1 in the 73d minute. Ryan Futagaki, a fourth-generation Japanese-American who grew up in Southern California, collected a cleared corner kick. The 5-foot-5 Futagaki, who moved to the wide left position after intermission, controlled the ball, slipped past a charging defender and unleashed a ferocious, 16-yard, right-footer that tucked into the right corner.

The U.S. aggressively pushed forward, with Albright second-half substitutes Jamar Beasley, John Thorrington and Shaun Tsakiris leading the way. Albright did well in the 79th and 81st minutes to get behind the defense and serve dangerous crosses into the penalty area, but on both occasions Minami came off his line to snag the balls.

In the 85th minute, however, Japan sealed its triumph when Tomoyuki Sakai threaded a pass to Mituso Ogasawara in the left side of the penalty area. Ogasawara took one touch toward the end line and hit a solid left-footer that Rimando had no chance to stop at the far post.

Japan 3, United States 1

Lineups: United States - Nick Rimando, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Dan Califf, Matt Goldsmith (Shaun Tsakiris 46), Nick Downing, Nick Garcia, Rusty Pierce (John Thorrington 59), Ryan Futagaki, Taylor Twellman (Jamar Beasley 46), Chris Albright; Japan - Yula Minami, Kazuki Teshima, Shigeki Tsujimoto, Tomoyuki Sakai, Mituso Ogasawara, Masashi Motoyama (Tatsuya Ishikawa 85), Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Ono (Akira Kaji 76), Koji Nakata, Yuichiro Nagai, Naohiro Takahara (Ryuji Bando 90).

Scoring:
Japan - own goal (Downing) 11;
Japan - Takahara (Ono) 52;
United States - Futagaki (unassisted) 73;
Japan - Ogasawara (Sakai) 85.

Shots: United States 7, Japan 8. Saves: United States 2, Japan 4. Corner kicks: United States 2, Japan 4. Fouls: United States 13, Japan 11. Offside: United States 1, Japan 3. Yellow card cautions: United States - Bocanegra 36, Cherundolo 79; Japan - Endo 76.

Referee: Arturo Dauden Ibanez (Spain). Assistant referees: Toufik Adjengui (Tunisia), Ali Tomusange (Uganda). Attendance: 13,600 at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi, Nigeria. Weather: Warm, dry, 88 degrees.

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