A first-half goal from Yuki Otsu secured a famous victory for Japan that revived memories of their famous Olympic upset of mighty Brazil at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
With a young side bolstered by the likes of Jordi Alba and Juan Mata, both members of Spain’s victorious Euro 2012 squad, the Spanish had been expected to collect a straightforward three points in their opening Group D game.
However despite dominating possession 65 percent to 35 percent the Spaniards were rocked back by the ferocity of Japan’s play throughout, and the Asians were well worth their victory.
Spain were left reeling on 34 minutes when Japan punished slack defending from a corner to score through Otsu.
Takahiro Ohgihara swung in an inviting corner from the right and Otsu managed to get goalside of Martin Montoya to jab a low shot past the stranded Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.
Japan’s players celebrated wildly and it got worse for Spain just before half-time when defender Inigo Martinez was sent off after a clumsy tangle with Kensuke Nagai.
The dismissal looked harsh but Martinez was clearly grabbing a handful of Nagai’s shirt so could have few complaints with the decision.
Japan continued to look threatening after the break and should have made the game safe in the final few minutes only for Nagai and Hotaru Yamaguchi to squander golden chances.
Nagai ought to have found the net when clean through, only for De Gea to save two minutes from time.
Then in injury time, Yamaguchi blazed high and wide with the goal at his mercy after another swift Japanese counter-attack.
Meanwhile, Olympics organisers suffered another embarrassing nationality blunder on Thursday when Welsh international footballer Joe Allen was described as “English”.
The 22-year-old Swansea City midfielder was pictured in the official Team GB programme with his nationality listed as English despite being born in Camarthen in Wales.
“A genuine mistake was made for which we apologise,” a London 2012 spokesman told the BBC.
The other Welshmen in the Great Britain squad — Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor and Aaron Ramsey — were all correctly identified in the programme.
Thursday’s latest gaffe came just a day after an official Team GB press release congratulating the British women’s football team on their opening victory over New Zealand was headlined “England women on their way”.
More seriously, Wednesday also saw North Korea’s women’s football team walk off the pitch at Glasgow’s Hampden Park in protest at their players’ photos appearing next to flags of South Korea.
Organisers also apologised for that incident.
Mexico 0 South Korea 0
Honduras 2 Morocco 2
Spain 0 Japan 1