Despite an improved second-half performance, Canada dropped a 2-1 decision to Japan on Friday in a friendly at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Canada were nervous and uncertain in the first half but looked more composed as the match went on, and given the gulf between the two teams in terms of skill and in the world rankings, it’s a performance with plenty of positives.
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Japan went in front in the ninth minute through Shinji Okazaki, but Marcus Haber’s first international goal tied things in the 59th minute before Mike Havenaar scored the winner in the 74th minute.
Havenaar took advantage of one of the many errors the Canadians made on the night. A cross came in from the left side and no Canadian player picked up the tall striker, who scuffed his left-footed shot but it snuck into the corner.
Canada enjoyed a bit of possession in the first few minutes of the game but weren’t able to do much going forward with it. They were quickly thrown off as nine minutes in, Japan made their breakthrough.
After a good through ball caught the Canadian defenders out playing a high line, goalkeeper Milan Borjan was forced to rush out to try to clear the ball off the feet of the onrushing Japanese attack.
Borjan slid to clear but made a mess of it and the ball remained in danger. The Canadian defenders couldn’t clear and Okazaki’s curling left-footed chip went over a backtracking Borjan and in.
Canada were lucky that was the only goal Japan would get as they should have been down by at least another goal. Yasuhito Endo struck a free kick off the post in the 20th minute that ricocheted towards Borjan, who only had the time to raise his arms slightly but it was enough to have the ball go out for a corner.
It was a much more composed Canadian team that came out in the second half, and eventually Canada won a corner through rookie Toronto FC midfielder Kyle Bekker.
Portland Timbers midfielder Will Johnson took the corner from the left side and Haber dipped down low to get his head to the ball and put it past the outstretched hands of Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Canada created a few more chances in the final few minutes but their search for an equalizer proved to be in vain.
Interim head coach Tony Fonseca now leads his Canadian side into another friendly in Doha, on Monday vs. Belarus.