Turkey has eliminated World Cup co-host Japan 1-0 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the month-long Asian football festival.
The match in Miyagi featured teams that reached the World Cup's second round for the first time in their history. Japan's only previous World Cup appearance was in 1998, while Turkey qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time since its inaugural appearance in 1954.
The game was played in a steady rain. In the 12th minute, the Turks dampened the spirits of both the Japanese fans and the Japanese team with a goal off a corner kick. Umit Davala, sporting a distinctive Mohawk haircut, pierced the Japanese defense by jumping high and heading the ball into the net. It was his second goal in four World Cup matches.
The Japanese tried hard to get the equalizer. One of their best chances came late in the first half when a free kick by Brazil-born Alessandro "Alex" Santos hit the post.
Japan's head coach, Philippe Troussier, spoke after the match. He commented on his team's style of play once it fell behind the Turks. "We were playing against a very experienced Turkish team," he said. "We still played a very hard match. We didn't let them monopolize the match. We played an offensive game. We had the free kick, and the shot off the bar. We were still playing offensively and we had the opportunities. But, there's still a lack of experience in Japanese football and still some things to make progress with."
This more than likely was Philippe Troussier's last match as Japan's coach. He has already said he plans to step down once the Japanese were eliminated.
Turkish defender Alpay Ozalan was named the official man of the match for his role in thwarting the Japanese attack.
This has been called a World Cup of surprises, and Turkey will next play another surprise team, World Cup debutante Senegal, in a quarterfinal Saturday in Osaka, Japan.