Okay. We’re trying a slightly different approach this evening. It’s so cold out here that I think I’m going to need to keep my fingers working to ward off frostbite. So, I’m going to report this match as it happens.
7.15: I’m still wondering where all these photographers and hacks have suddenly appeared from. There are dozens of them, swarming around the entrance as the teams come out. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have come out wearing puffa jackets. It’s not that much colder here than it is in South Korea, is it?
7.17: The two teams line up while an “anthem” of sorts (trumpets with a rock beat) plays in the background. The big screen behind the goal pans along the line of players, as it would if this was an international. Some of the players look as if they think that they should be singing. A couple of the Jeonbuk players appear to be gamely mouthing some (presumably made up) words. The Club America players merely look stern. That’s the word. Stern.
7.20: Kick-off, bang on time. 90% of the noise inside the ground is coming from about 100 very noisy America fans behind the goal to my right.
7.25: Jeonbuk Motors have had the best of the early exchanges. They had one corner (an unforced error by Davino), which resulted in Ochoa having to punch under pressure. Jeonbuk look hungry and well-organised. Club America look sloppy.
7.28: The first real chance falls to America, but it’s from a hideous mistake by the JHM goalkeeper Kwoun, who fluffs a clearance. Lopez reacts quickly, but with his back to goal his shot dribbles wide.
7.32: Both teams seem nervy, but America are very quick going forward. Blanco shoots wide from a very narrow angle. It’s already evident that 70% of their attacking play is going to come through him or Claudio Lopez.
7.35: There are serious gaps in the JHM defensive line. Blanco shoots well over from twenty-yards out, but he shouldn’t be getting that amount of space. America seem to have overcome their early nerves and are starting to take control.
7.37: Another chance for America. Lopez tries to lob Kwoun from twenty yards, but the ball drops just over. It’s starting to feel like it’ll only be a matter of time before they score.
7.40: The referee looks EXACTLY the same as one of his linesmen. From this distance. they could be identical twin brothers. Uncanny. Or… have FIFA started cloning referees? As you may have guessed, there’s not a lot going on at the moment. Even the America supporters fell silent for a minute or two.
7.43: Suddenly, excitement! Good approach play down the right hand side from Cabanas and a terrific pass puts Lopez in, and he lifts the ball over the oncoming goalkeeper, but also well over the crossbar as well. The boy should have done better and, from the look on his face on the big screen a couple of seconds afterwards, I suspect that he knows it too.
7.48: This has got the feel of last night’s game, but it’s much better. JHM are much better organised than Auckland City were, but if I was going to bet on someone to score, I’d go for America. A surprise early substitution from JHM, too. Wang off, Botti on. Make of that what you wish.
7.53: Half a chance for JHM! A lovely ball across the six yard area from Hyeung Bum Kin, but the forward can’t get on the end of it. A couple of minutes later, the first yellow card goes to JHM’s Young Sun Kim for a nasty looking tackle on Fabiano Pereira. As he’s taken off on a stretcher (he looks alright to me), the JHM fans shout “BORING! BORING! BORING!”at him.
7.58: Another defensive crisis for JHM. A sliced defender’s clearance fools the goalkeeper, and for a second it looks like it’s going to trickle in to give America a hilarious lead – it rolls wide, though.
8.00: The best chance of the game falls to Lopez, who’s suddenly and unexpectedly put through after an impromptu game of pinball on the edge of the JHM penalty area. From a slight angle, he shoots just wide – the replay makes it look as if Kwoun might have got a touch on it, though.
8.04: Another good chance for America, this time for Villa, who shoots wide after good approach play from Lopez. Lopez has looked like the only player of anything like world-class standard in this first half.
8.07: Half-time – JHM 0-0 Club America. I don’t think it’s a matter of “if rather than when” America score. JHM are a well-organised team, if prone to defensive lapses of concentration and looking lightweight up front. I’d still want to back America to win this, though.
8.30: Due to getting monstrously lost in the bowels of the stadium at half-time, your intrepid reporter has contrived to miss the first ten minutes of the second half. JHM appear to have started the stronger of the two sides, but as the ever-wise Suleiman said during the break, they are playing as if from a textbook. When they need to show any imagination, flair or individual skill, they are falling short.
8.37: Your intrepid reporter can report that four of the OleOle contingent (himself included) have been told off for trying to take photographs inside the ground. Impressive stuff. We’re going to have to do this through the medium of subterfuge.
8.39: Suddenly, JHM have the best chance of the match so far. Botti (no sniggering, please) is put through from a pass from the right wing, but Ochoa makes an excellent save. Shortly afterwards, at the other end, Blanco tries one of his patented “bunny-hops”, but gets it wrong hopelessly wrong, and doesn’t even take the ball with him as he jumps. The fool.
8.45: The wheels have really started to come off this wagon over the last five minutes or so. There have been a few too many misplaced passes and some niggly fouls have started creeping in, too. It’s all starting to look a little too much like last night for my liking. Mind you, I like America’s away kit, though. More football shirts should have proper collars, if you ask me.
8.47: Another chance for JHM. Zecarlo carries the ball to six yards out, beating Castro on the way (Fideling while Rome burns, perhaps?), but the angle is too narrow and Ochoa blocks with his legs. Still, there are gaps starting to open up at the back if JHM show a little ambition. Lopez hasn’t done anything since the break (well, he might have done in the first ten minutes, but I wouldn’t know about that, for obvious reasons).
8.54: GOAL! JHM 0-1 Club America – Luckiest goal of the tournament, surely. A low ball across the edge of the six-yard area from the right is met by a stumbling Ricardo Rojas, who bundles the ball over the line with his back-side whilst in the sort of position that dogs get into when they’re “cleaning themselves” on your living room carpet. The time of the goal – 79 minutes.
8.59: Substitute for JHM: Hyun Yeung replaced by Hoon Goo Geo. A couple of minutes later, In Ho Kim comes on for Chui Soon Choi. That’s their lot, substitutes-wise. Club America must be confident of not conceding – Claudio Lopez, the best player on the pitch by a country mile, is replaced by Matias Vuoso. Five minutes plus stoppage time left to play.
9.04: Yet another terrible cross from JHM. Jung Kwan Chung is to blame this time. Their delivery has really let them down this evening.
9.06: A great chance for Salvador Cabanas to sew the game up when he’s put through on goal by the impressive Fabiano Perreira, but he takes too long over it and allows Kwoun to block. A couple of minutes later he’s put through again, but this time the ball rolls wide. There are huge, open gaps at the back for JHM now.
9.07: Three minutes added time. America seem to be trying to keep the ball in the corner for the whole of it. Unsurprisingly, it’s cleared after about nine seconds. There’s one final chance for JHM, but the cross is aimed at absolutely no-one whatsoever. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ochoa is in no rush to get on with things.
9.10 Dear me. Cabanas is through on goal again, but Kwoun blocks well. From the rebound, Rojas blazes the ball over. Not that it makes any difference, because the full-time whistle sounds a few seconds later.
9.11 Full Time – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0-1 Club America – and good value for it, on balance.
So, what to make of this? Club America, I rather feel, never got out of third gear this evening. Blanco played for half an hour before starting to fade, but Lopez is clearly still a class act and Fabiano Pereira also impressed up front. Their goalkeeper, Ochoa, put in a very solid display at the back. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors did have the chances to take match this match by the scruff of the neck at 0-0, but after they went a goal down they never really threatened an equalizer. I’d be highly surprised if they didn’t see off Auckland City in the fifth/sixth place play-off, though.
And that’s your lot. I’ve got a day off tomorrow, so I may go off on a search for Tokyo’s football culture. Alternatively, I might just sleep in until lunchtime, and go shopping in the afternoon. Whatever happens, I will be posting my meaty thoughts on here at some point, so don’t forget to stop by.