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26 June 1998 Group H Lyon - Stade de Gerland
Jamaica
The "Reggae Boys" of Jamaica won this battle of the World Cup debutantes after defeating goal-shy Japan 2-1 in the Stade de Gerland, Lyon, in front of two of the most fanatical sets of supporters the competition has ever known. Two goals from Jamaica's Theodore Whitmore turned the atmosphere in the stadium into carnival mode, before Japan's Masashi Nakayama at last converted one of a number of opportunities to the huge delight of the Nippon army. The two sides will cherish memories of their first appearance in the finals, but whilst Japan will be back in four years time as co-hosts with Korea, one cannot help wondering when, if ever, the Jamaicans will grace the tournament again. After losing their opening matches against Argentina and Croatia, both teams were desperately looking for, not only their first World Cup win, but a performance to savour before saying au revoir to France 98. Jamaica brought in Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle in place of Deon Burton to add a little more height and brawn to their attack, but it was the Japanese who started by far the brighter of the two sides, with Hiroshi Nanami, Shoji Jo and Nakayama all shooting either high or wide in the first ten minutes, to set the trend for the rest of the afternoon. Jamaica gradually came more into the contest and slowed the pace down to their liking, but without ever really troubling a Japan defence that has defended resolutely and competently to only concede two goals in their previous two matches. On 38 minutes the Japanese carved out the best chance of the game so far when right-back Akira Narahashi's deep cross to the far post was nodded down to Jo by left-back Naoki Soma, but just when the striker looked certain to score, Ian Goodison made a last-ditch saving tackle. Japan were left ruing that, and their early missed chances, as just a minute later Jamaica were ahead when Gayle flicked on for Whitmore to fire home low into the Japanese net from 12 yards. The half then ended as it had started, with Japan in the ascendancy, at least with goal attempts, as Narahashi's 25-yard drive, and then Jo's sharp header, forced Lawrence into two diving saves. After the interval there was soon action at either end as first Japan's player of the tournament, Hidetoshi Nakata, shot over the bar, before Fitzroy Simpson broke through on the left and his cross was cleared for a corner with the ball appearing to strike the arm of the Japanese skipper Masami Ihara. The penalty appeals had barely died down, when Whitmore scored his and Jamaica's second goal of the afternoon with an excellent solo effort, although the 'keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi must take some blame for being beaten at his near post. There then followed wave after wave of Japanese attacks as the Jamaican goal was peppered by shots from anywhere and everywhere in an astonishing 20-minute spell of unrelenting pressure. It all started when Narahashi struck a post on 56 minutes with a neat side-foot volley and ended on 75 minutes when Nakayama scored his side's first goal in the World Cup finals with a simple finish following substitute Lopes' header. Substitute striker Walter Boyd went close on a couple of occasions late on, before Lopes fired over Japan's 18th goal attempt of the second half and their 28th of a wasteful match. France 98 will long be remembered for these two sides baptism in the competition, making plenty of friends along the way both on and off the field.

(1-2) Nakayama (75). Soma's deep left-wing cross to the far post reached substitute striker Lopes whose attempted header for goal miscued square across the six-yard box to wrong foot 'keeper Lawrence, leaving the striker with an easy job of hooking home into the empty net albeit with another mishit right-footed attempt.

(0-1) Whitmore (36). He gambled on Marcus Gayle winning a high ball on the edge of the Japanese penalty area, to latch onto the flick, before taking one touch to create space for a low right-footed shot, cut back across 'keeper Kamaguchi and just inside his right-hand post from 12 yards.

(0-2) Whitmore (54). He raced clear onto Simpson's pass down the right channel and with Hall and Gayle waiting in the middle for a cross the midfielder cut back inside Omura onto his left foot before beating 'keeper Kawaguchi at his near post with a low 12-yard drive.

 
 
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