Japan produced a major shock in menís Olympic soccer on Thursday in Glasgow, Scotland, beating medal-favorite Spain 1-0 with pace and guile in a match that could have ended in a rout had the finishing been more accurate.
Japan forward Yuki Otsu broke away from his marker during a corner in the 34th minute and the ball landed right at his feet for a simple tap-in past Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea. Spain, reduced to 10 men a few minutes after the goal, never managed to get back into the game after that.
The loss was a huge blow for Spainís under-23 team, which wants to win Olympic gold to add to the World Cup and European Championship titles held by the countryís full national team.
But the defeat wasnít insurmountable.
Spain, touted as one of the favorites to win a gold medal, will now look to the national sideís experience at the 2010 World Cup for inspiration. Spain lost its first group stage match in South Africa to Switzerland, but went on to win the tournament.
The Olympic side has two more matches to turn it around, against Group D opponents Honduras and Morocco.
ďOur aim is to win both of them. We have to,Ē forward Juan Mata said.
ďWe need to improve some things and we have to play better.Ē
Spain started Thursdayís match brightly with good build-up play and quick passing in the first 20 minutes, but they couldnít break through a solid Japan defense and didnít have a meaningful shot on goal.
It wasnít only Japanís back line that was troubling the Spaniards.
Nagai caused major problems for them throughout the match, slipping behind defenders with quick runs. Spain center back Inigo Martinez was sent off for a foul while trying to stop Nagai from scoring.
The forward continued to badger the defense, shaving the post in the 58th minute.
Spainís youngsters mimicked the slick passing game the national team is so well known for, pressuring Japan but failing to test the goalkeeper with any dangerous shots. Japanís defenders were also able to strip the ball off Spainís attackers several times in the penalty area as they threatened to shoot.
Great Britain 1, Senegal 1
Host Britainís quest for an Olympic soccer medal got off to a stumbling start when Senegalese striker Moussa Konate scored a late equalizer to secure a 1-1 draw.
Playing in its first Olympic competition since 1960, Britain took the lead at 19 minutes after Senegal failed to clear a free kick into the box from captain Ryan Giggs. Fellow Welshman Craig Bellamy pounced on the loose ball, driving a shot into the ground that bounced to the left of keeper Ousmane Mane.
Konateís goal came in the 81st, as Britain was hoping to hold out for a scrappy victory.
Britain next plays United Arab Emirates, which lost against Uruguay earlier Thursday, on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
Brazil 3, Egypt 2
Gold-medal favorite Brazil scored three first-half goals, then held on for a win over Egypt in its opening match in Group C.
Rafael opened the scoring in the 16th minute, Leandro Damiao added another in the 26th and Neymar scored in the 30th to give Brazil a comfortable halftime lead before Egypt made it interesting with goals by captain Mohamed Aboutrika in the 52nd and substitute Mohamed Salah in the 76th.
Brazil was able to control the rest of the match and held on for the victory, staying on track for its first gold in Olympic menís soccer.
The Olympic tournament is the only significant soccer competition the five-time world champions havenít won.
Gabon 1, Switzerland 1
Gabon rallied for a Group B draw against Switzerland in its Olympics debut.
Admir Mehmedi put Switzerland ahead by converting an early penalty kick he was forced to retake after Innocent Emeghara was brought down inside the area.
Gabon tied it in the 45th minute. Pierre Aubameyang collected Alexander Ndoumbouís floated cross alone inside the area and flicked a shot under goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
Uruguay 2, ?United Arab Emirates 1
Substitute Nicolas Lodeiro scored in the second half to give Uruguay a victory over the United Arab Emirates.
Playing in front of a near capacity Old Trafford Stadium, the Emirates took the lead on the 23rd minute and looked like the better side for much of the first half.
But with four minutes to go before the break, Uruguayís Gaston Ramirez curled the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net from a free kick after Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was brought down.
Lodeiro came on for the second half and converted a close shot in the 55th minute following a fluid Uruguayan move down the left flank.
Uruguay is seen as possible medal contender for this yearís Games.
South Korea 0, Mexico 0
South Korea wasted a number of scoring chances against Mexico as they opened the Group B soccer competition with a draw.
With forward Giovani Dos Santos starting on the bench, Mexico showed little promise of being a medal contender as its opponent dominated at St. James Park.
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm on the slippery turf with the second half tempo yielding more scoring occasions.
Koo Jacheol came close to breaking the deadlock in the 53rd minute as the South Korea captain swiveled to volley off the crossbar.
Koo headed the gameís best chance wide in the 80th after getting free inside the box.
Mexico next plays Gabon on Sunday, and South Korea will face Switzerland.
Honduras 2, Morocco 2
Short-handed Morocco held on for a draw against Honduras in the Group D opener at the Olympics.
Morocco left back Zakarya Bergdich received a straight red card in the 71st minute for kicking Mario Martinez in the left knee. But Honduras was unable to take advantage of the ejection.
Morocco opened the scoring in the 39th minute when Abdelaziz Barrada converted a superb volley. Bergdichís pass was headed down by forward Zakaria Labyad near the edge of the area, and the ball took a bounce before Barrada blasted it into the goal from about 20 yards away.
Maynor Figueroa helped Honduras get on the board in the 56th minute.
The Wigan left back made a blazing run down the left, then fired a hard shot into the penalty area that Jerry Bengtson redirected past the Morocco goalkeeper.
Honduras then won a penalty, which Bengtson converted in the 65th minute to put the Central American team in front.
Honduras plays Spain next, and Morocco takes on Japan. Both matches are in Newcastle on Sunday.
Belarus 1, New Zealand 0
Dmitry Baga scored in the first half to give Belarus a win over New Zealand in its Group C opener.
Baga scored with a header just before halftime, which proved enough to secure the three points at the City of Coventry Stadium.
Belarus dominated the first half, before New Zealand came out stronger for the second but was unable to break through the Europeansí defense.
Belarus faces tournament favorite Brazil on Sunday in its second game of the group stage. New Zealand plays Egypt.