South Africa let early lead slip as Japan claim victory

South Africa let a halftime lead slip as they lost 2-1 to Japan in their opening Group D match at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Sunday.

South Africa took an early lead through midfielder Grant Margeman and had a number of chances to increase their advantage, but goals from Koki Ogawa and Ritsu Doan sealed the victory for the Japanese.

It was a highly entertaining fixture in Suwon, with Japan also left wondering how they failed to score more goals.

The African side had the lead on seven minutes when Margeman beat the offside trap and his shot was deflected into the back of the net. New Zealand referee Matt Conger checked the offside with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), and the goal stood.

Amajita were finding plenty of joy down the flanks and should have been 2-0 up when Malebogo Modise delivered a delightful cross from the left, but Matlala Makgalwa put his free header from six yards well wide.

Japan threatened at the other end when Ogawa hit a shot on the turn from a corner, but his effort agonisingly bounced off the crossbar and away to safety.

Ogawa then had an excellent chance to equalise just before the half-hour mark when he was left all alone in the box and with time and space to place his header, put his effort wide with Mondli Mpoto in the South African goal left stranded.

Luther Singh should have doubled South Africa's lead when he bamboozled the Japanese defence to create an opening, but then fired wildly wide from six yards.

Japan were level two minutes into the second half when Ogawa turned the ball goalwards and the it trickled over the line before Mpoto could claw it clear, with the VAR again confirming the goal.

South Africa had a spell of pressure immediately afterwards, but Thabo Cele blasted over when well placed. Ogawa had an excellent chance to give the Asian side the lead when he found himself one-on-one with Mpoto, who raced off his line and blocked the shot.

Brilliant play from Margeman then set up Singh for what looked a simple tap-in from six yards, but some scrambling Japanese defence provided a block and the ball was cleared.

The chances kept coming at either end, and Japan might have been in front when Yuto Iwasaki found himself unmarked at the back post, but steered his header wide.

They did grab the lead on 72 minutes with some neat play in the South African box as 15-year-old Takefusa Kubo set up Doan for a side-footed finish.

Keita Endo was denied a third for the Japanese by an excellent low stop from Mpoto, with both teams fluffing further chances to score.