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Japan Rules Asia 7s Football Championships

MANILA, Philippines – Shohei Agata, stymied all match long by the man marking of India, called the shot. In a previous play, he asked Ryusei Okuma for the ball in the middle, but the midfielder did not play the ball to him.

With a minute left to play, Agata planted himself outside the box and looked at Okuma, demanding the ball. This time, the winger acquiesced.

One touch, he fed Takaharu Nakagawa the ball and the striker did what he does best — score. Nakagawa sent a laser of a shot that pierced India’s defense and eluded their valiant keeper Scott Moraes for the killer blow. 

It was Nakagawa’s second goal of the finals of the BPI AIA Asia 7s Football Championships, his eighth goal of the tournament that tied him for the lead with Okuma. And it was for the title.

Japan coach Keller Costa prophesized the gold, and his team delivered as 3-2 winners at a raucous McKinley Hill Stadium last Sunday evening, April 23. The first ever champions of the tournament that is destined to be a huge one for many years to come.

India’s game plan was excellent. They marked all of Japan’s playmakers and hardly gave them daylight for passes and looks at the goal. They took Agata and Okuma out of the game, leaving Japan frustrated and at times, rudderless.

Nakagawa did foreshadow the ending if not his heroics when he scored also at death’s door in the 25thminute to stun India that was playing some great football.

And how they came out for the second half was characteristic of the game.

Japan punched. India countered.       

Clinton D’Souza found Johnson D’Silva for the equalizer two minutes into the re-set. 

India’s reverie was short-lived as three minutes later, Tomoya Sekina gave the lead back to Japan with another strike. 

With an air of desperation setting it, India drew level with a Mervin Stephen goal in the 41st minute.

With the match looking more and more like it was headed into extra time, if not a penalty shootout, Costa sent Agata back into the fray. Not as a striker, but as the team’s pivot in the middle. It paid dividends as he started to get a better feel for the game.

And then came the assist to Nakagawa for the match winner.

“I know I said we’d win it, but you have to say it,” explained Costa post-match. “Now you have to back up those words and I am glad the boys did. They worked hard for this.”

Thus the inaugural BPI AIA Asia 7s Football Championships came to a riveting end. They had saved the best for last.

With the matches mostly one-sided, it was the India-Philippines elimination round match and the finals that were close affairs. But at the end of the day, it was a magnificent tournament.

The Philippines bagged third place, but in doing so, had to weather a late fightback from Brunei that spotted a five-goal lead by the home team.

Had Brunei made good on two penalty shots, the outcome could have been different. Instead, the Philippines emerged triumphant with a 6-3 win.

Japan finished the three-day tournament at 5-0. India, 3-2. The Philippines, 2-3, and Brunei, 0-5.

Japan’s Nakagawa and Okuma finished as the top goal scorers with eight apiece. 

The Philippines’ MJ Libre and India’s Johnson D’Silva were second with seven goals. Bienvenido Marañon and Japan’s Shohei Agata came in third with five goals each.

The TapGo TV panel judged Agata as the tournament’s Best Player.

The first ever BPI AIA Asia 7s Football Championships were sponsored by BPI AIA, TapGo TV, Blaze Athletics, Palaro, and the Mansion Sports Bar and Lounge.

Source : Philstar