IFAF World Championships: Japan (0-1) vs. Mexico (0-1)
If ever there was a rivalry in IFAF World Championship history, this is the one. Forget Japan’s tilts against the United States. Mexico and Japan have been at each other’s throats since the first tournament in 1999. And Japan has won every contest, each time in a medal game.
In the gold medal games in both 1999 and 2003 Japan beat Mexico for the title. The same thing happened in 2011 in the bronze medal game as Japan spoiled Mexico’s chance to stand on the podium defeating them 17-14.
They enter today’s game both with an 0-1 record having faced the United States. Both Mexico and Japan played well in the first half of each game but succumbed to the American onslaught in the second.
Nevertheless they acquitted themselves well. Japan quarterback Shohei Kato set new IFAF World Championship records for pass attempts and completions, finding his receivers on 28 of 49 attempts in a 43-18 loss to the United States. In fact, Kato’s 273 passing yards rank third on the all-time list for a single game.
Unfortunately, Mexico’s quarterback Arroyo Vega did not fare as well completing 11 of 19 attempts against the U.S. for 46 yards. Mexico’s sole points came through kicker Jose Maltos’ field goals of 44 and 37 yards. Maltos owns the IFAF World Championship longest and second longest field goals kicked with successful kicks of 56 and 49 yards from 2011 in Austria and his 44-yarder is eighth-best overall.
Japan lost for only the third time in IFAF World Championship history when downed 43-18 by the United States on Sunday. Their previous losses were by a combined seven points and both came in medal games to the U.S. (23-20 in double overtime in 2007 Gold medal game) and Canada (31-27 in 2011 Bronze medal game).
Defensive lineman Octavio Gonzalez was named MVP of last week’s loss to the United States as he led the team with a sack and a tackle for a loss.
Japanese defensive lineman Mitsunori Kikira (who lined up on offense and caught a 1-yard TD against the USA on July 11):
“It was a play we had prepared for a long time and it was a perfect pass, so I was nervous, but of course I was happy to catch the ball for a touchdown.”
“Mexico is a physical team and compared to them we are not so physical, so what we have to do is focus on the details of our scheme and our teamwork. If we focus on that then we have a chance to win. We have to all do our own job and execute perfectly.”
Mexico kicker Jose Maltas:
“We are mentally ready. We have been working very hard in the days between games and all the players are focused on winning against Japan. We’re going to do all we can to win. The Japanese players are very good and they were awesome against the U.S. We think it will be a tough game. They are quick guys and well coached.”
“We are more experienced than we were in 2011. The coaches have prepared for this world championship for three years and they have scouted the players to make their selections and I think this is a better team (than the 2011 team).”
Japan returns a total of 15 players who were part of the 2011 tournament – the most of any country. Mexico wide receiver Diego Viamontes scored on an 82-yard kickoff return against Japan in the 2011 World Championship bronze medal game and led Mexico in receiving against the U.S. last week with 3 catches for 53 yards.
This may be the game to watch Wednesday and these two teams are so evenly matched and well prepared. Both head coaches – Kiyoyuki Mori of Japan and Mexico’s Raùl Rivera Sànchez – are veterans in IFAF World Championship tournaments and well acquainted with each other’s teams.
Watch the game live July 15, kickoff is at 3:30 PM EDT in Canton, Ohio.