Japan running back corps rushed for combined 258 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries and its defense showed another shutout performance as the host country whitewashed Sweden 48-0 in Pool 1 play on Thursday at Kawasaki Stadium.
With the win, Japan (2-0) earned first place in Pool 1 and advanced to Sunday’s final against the United States, the winner of Pool 2, at Todoroki Track and Field Stadium. Second place Sweden (1-1) takes on Germany in the third-place playoff on Saturday at Kawasaki Stadium.
Japan recorded the second-straight shutout victory and stayed the only team in the third IFAF World Championship that has yet to give up a point.
Japan took advantages of the players’ quickness and speed to take on bigger Swedish players. Japan’s speedy running backs went past the line of scrimmage quickly and showed fine cut back to beat tackles. Defensively, the linemen used their agility and explosion to penetrate to the offensive territory and gave the pressure on Sweden QB Carl-Johan Haraldson.
The Swedish players, on the other hand, were not able to use their size and power to control the game.
``Our game plan was to take the ball and grab the opportunity so that we can go into the package that we’re going to try our power against the Japanese defense, and try to control the ball, move the chains and take our size against the Japanese quickness,’’ Sweden head coach B.D Kennedy said.
Sweden lost the possession to a fumble by Haraldson on the first offensive play and gave Japan early momentum of the game. Five plays later, Japan quarterback Yuichi Tomizawa rushed 1 yard for the leadoff touchdown.
Japan wasted no time to widen its lead. Wide receiver Naoki Maeda scored on a 12-yard run and Ken Shimizu returned a punt for 55 yards for a touchdown, all in the first quarter.
Japan started to control the ball by deploying the rushing attack in the second half and played a little bit conservatively. Koji Sugisawa extended Japan’s lead to 38-0 on a 1-yard run early in the third quarter.
Sweden, which was held to only two first downs in the first half, finally found its offensive rhythm in the third quarter. Starting at its own 7-yard line, Sweden earned three first downs in a row. But a personal foul at first-and-10 on 33-yard line pushed the Swedish offense back 10 yards. Sweden failed to overcome the loss and was forced to punt. The Swedish never had another chance and gave up a safety instead in the fourth quarter.
Kentaro Namiki’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Takuro Mayuzumi with 0:46 seconds left in the game and a two-point conversion capped Japan’s 48-point campaign.
``We’ve been prepared for France and Sweden for long time. As expected, Sweden was a big and tough team,’’ Japan head coach Toshiaki Abe said after the game. ``We have played the games with the one-game-at-one-time philosophy in the tournament. So we start to get prepared for the Untied States from now on.
``We have used all the plays we prepared for this World Championship. We have to check it again before taking on the U.S. My impression of the U.S. team is they have more speed than we expected and well-coached. We will face another tough game other than those against the European teams.’’