1st September, when the 3rdshot was converted at the shootout at the GBK stadium in Jakarta, the Japan Men’s team had been declared Gold medalists at the 18thAsian Games in Jakarta Palembang.
Their road to the final was not a straightforward one, as they faced tough opposition from a Pool that had India, South Korea and others that would have made any side sweat. However, the tenacity and consistency that Japan Hockey showcased were inspirational.
Japan played their first game against Sri Lanka, which put them off to a good start. Their second match was against Indonesia, which they won by 3 goals to 1. After having put up a good show in the first two games, they faced defeat at the hands of India. The defeat, at the time, placed Japan on a crossroad and their follow up performance was crucial to decide their fate at the Asian Games. Japan, however, bounced back strongly after that as they played a superb 60 minutes against Hong Kong China.
Next up were Pacific neighbors Korea, a match that was highly anticipated by everyone. In their last group match, which many closely associated it to be a group eliminator, Japan put up a champion display and beat Korea by 3-2. Their superb Pool A journey meant that they had booked a place in the Semi-Finals of the Asian Games, where they were set to face Pakistan.
In the second Semi-Final being held at the GBK stadium, Japan through some clinical high pressure, tactical gameplay secured the opening goal through #25 Yamada in the 18thminute. Japan, from that point onwards, defended majestically as the Yamada goal proved to be the decider and Japan after the end of 60 minutes were promoted to the final of the Asian Games to face Malaysia for Gold.
In the final, Japan’s start to the match was less than ideal. At Half Time, they found themselves trailing by 4 goals to 2. An additional goal was added by the Malaysian side with approximately 10 minutes to play. But the sheer tenacity and willpower of the Japan side allowed them to turn the final around, making it a match to be featured in history books. Japan scored 4 to equalize the 6 goals forced by Malaysia; Their last goal came with 13 seconds left in the play.
The match went to a penalty shootout, where a couple of brilliant stops from the Japanese Goal Keeper, resulting in Japan winning the Gold and creating history after the 5 shootouts.
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