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.