A day after a diplomatic incident was narrowly avoided when the North Korean women's football team walked off the field in disgust at seeing the South Korean flag appear besides their names – turns out it was London's fault, not Glasgow's – Hampden provided the setting for an even greater upset, in a sporting sense at least.
This was Spain's first appearance in men's football at the Games since they finished as runners-up in 2000 but, as recent winners of the European Championships at both senior and under-21 level, there was a feeling that they would be strong contenders to add the under-23 Olympic title to that burgeoning honours list. Instead around 38,000 inside Hampden – a marked improvement on the previous day's attendance – were treated to the sight of this tireless Japan side inflicting upon them a rare competitive defeat. It will likely not prove fatal to Luis Milla's side's chances – the senior side lost their opening World Cup game to Switzerland in 2010 and we know how that one ended – but it added an extra element of excitement for a Glasgow crowd who threw themselves into the occasion whole-heartedly.
What a moment this was for the Japanese and their unashamedly enthusiastic fans. Here they were in their droves, chanting repeatedly to a metronomic drummer's beat and waving national flags, balloons and paper fans whenever their heroes poured forward in attack. If there is such a thing as a meaningless game in Japanese football then they have yet to find it. Their devotion to their team is unstinting.
Their boys put in a strong performance in return. Expected to be the sideshow to the swaggering Spanish, Japan predictably enjoyed little possession, in the first half especially, but could not be faulted for their tenacity and boundless energy. They failed to give their illustrious opponents any space with their high-tempo pressing game. It left them reliant on counter attacks and set pieces to trouble the Spanish goal but they did so tellingly late in the first half. Yuki Otso fastened on to a corner and slid the ball past goalkeeper David de Gea. The Japan supporters celebrated like it was the winner in the World Cup final.
What then of this young Spanish side? There is now almost an expectation that they will graduate into the A team and continue the success their senior counterparts have enjoyed. On this evidence it might not be that straightforward. Milla stuck to the Spanish template – although he did play with a traditional centre-forward, Adrian of Atletico Madrid, who had a fruitless afternoon – but there was little of the fluidity of play that Xavi, Andres Iniesta and others have mastered to the point that some now, unfathomably, find it boring to watch.
Spain, in sky blue shirts rather than their traditional red, stuck doggedly to the passing game but too often a Japanese defender would stick in a toe and steal away possession, bringing another promising move to an end. Spain were also uncharacteristically untidy in defence. Otso was awarded the freedom of the six-yard box to slide in his goal, while blunders presented Hiroshi Kiyotake with two good chances, both scorned. Japan found themselves hanging on for a narrow win in the final minutes when they could and should have been four or five goals to the good.
Spain were clumsy in the tackle, too. Jordi Alba was booked minutes after Javi Martinez had been fortunate not to pick up a yellow card. Inigo Martinez was sent off just before half-time for a desperate professional foul. With Carles Puyol approaching retirement age, Vicente del Bosque will be on the look-out for defensive replacements for his senior side and none of those auditioning here looked the part. By the end, Japan were running through their patched-up defence at will.
If Spain versus Japan was the main attraction, then the undercard between Honduras and Morocco served as a more than acceptable warm-up act. A Hampden crowd, that grew steadily the longer the match wore one, lapped it all up.
There is something liberating about watching an entertaining match with no emotional ties to either side and so it was here. Freed from the constraints of partisanship, the crowd cheered equally for both sides, greeting a spectacular diving stop from the Honduran goalkeeper with a gasp and burst of applause, roaring their approval whenever a piece of trickery was attempted, and almost taking the roof off when Honduras won and converted a second-half penalty.
Morocco were similarly feted. There is clearly no ill-feeling towards the north African nation despite the towsing they handed out to Scotland at the 1998 World Cup. When Zakaria Labyad chipped in an exquisite equaliser to make it 2-2 it wasn't just the handful of Moroccans in the main stand who were on their feet applauding. At this point you suspected the Hampden crowd was in such a good mood that they would possibly cheer almost anything and, sure enough, even a red card thrust in the direction of Morocco's Zakarya Bergdich elicited an almighty roar of approval.
The good humour extended long into the afternoon.Glasgow had finally embraced the Olympics.
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