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Japan hopes quashed again by opposing star player

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm •  Published: June 24, 2014
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CUIABA, Brazil (AP) — For Japan, this World Cup has been a nightmare revisited: The Asian champions seize momentum with waves of dangerous attack, and little payoff. Then their opponent's talismanic player comes on as a second-half substitute — and Japan wilts under pressure.

In Japan's first match, Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba was the nemesis. On Tuesday, it was Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez.

In both encounters, there was a palpable shift of energy at the stadium when those stars appeared. And on Tuesday, the goal that would help the Colombians break a 1-1 halftime deadlock seemed inevitable.

Striker Yoichiro Kiyotake admitted after the match that ended Japan's World Cup adventure: "The momentum shifted."

The second nightmare that Japan revisited on Tuesday night was abysmal finishing.

Lack of killer instinct plagued them in their 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast, again in a 0-0 draw with Greece, and finally Tuesday night against Colombia. The Latin Americans stormed to a 4-1 rout in a match that Japan dominated for long stretches.

For much of the contest, Japan seemed to have rediscovered its entertaining attacking flair against a Colombian side that was already into the knockout stages and chose to rest key players.

The Asians were the better team in the first half and created chances — but simply could not convert them into goals.

That exposed Japan to Colombian counterattacks, the first leading to a penalty in the 17th minute.

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