South Africa began their Olympics Group A campaign with a 1-0 defeat by Japan in a one-sided affair at Ajinomoto Stadium on Thursday.
Real Madrid new signing Takefusa Kubo struck in the 71st minute to separate the two sides.
Following the match, South Africa sit third in Group A by Mexico who beat France 4-1 earlier on, while Japan are second.
The result was arguably not a true reflection of the encounter, as South Africa were always on the backfoot at the mercy of Japan’s relentless attacking.
South Africa coach David Notoane started Evidence Makgopa as the centre-forward supported by Luther Singh and Thabo Cele on the wings.
Captain Tercious Malepe, Luke Fleurs and Thendo Mukumela formed a central defence set-up of three men.
From the first whistle, Japan were fired up and dominated play while threatening to get a breakthrough as Amaglug-glug survived attack after attack.
The hosts’ centre-forward Daichi Hayashi hit the side net on 14 minutes as South Africa were lucky to come out unscathed.
Pace increased in the Japanese attack, with their African opponents always on the back foot and struggling to cope up.
Malepe put pressure to prevent Koji Miyoshi, positioned at point-blank range, from connecting with a cross from Kubo in the 22nd minute.
Japan goalkeeper Kosei Tani largely had a quiet day, with no South African raid to deal with, while, by contrast Ronwen Williams had to save strongly to deny Hayashi on the half-hour mark.
The SuperSport United goalkeeper was again then invited to desperately deflect an effort by Miyoshi which narrowly missed the target in the 32nd minute in what was arguably the shot-stopper’s best save of the game.
A minute later, in a period of sustained pressure, Japan thought they had claimed the lead when Hayashi beat Williams but his effort was ruled to have been scored from an offside position.
Stray passes were Amaglug-glug’s biggest Achilles heel with Makhopa starved of supply, and South Africa’s first realistic chance at goal came in the first half stoppage time when Sibusiso Mabiliso was released by Teboho Mokoena but his effort was blocked for a corner kick.
Three minutes after the break, Hayashi picked up from where he had left off and almost forced Fleurs to beat his own goalkeeper Williams in a desperate attempt to clear danger.
Shortly after, Fleurs was forced to make another last-ditch defending as a breakthrough always looked imminent for Japan.
Within that short period, Williams was invited to make three desperate saves, including repulsing Hayashi’s close-range effort.
As the host’ persistence appeared to have subsided a bit, 20-year-old Kubo dribbled from the right to shoot on the far post beyond the reach of Williams to break the deadlock.
Five minutes after Japan’s goal, South Africa had a rare opportunity to hit back but Singh shot straight at Tani from inside the box in what was Amaglug-glug’s best chance of the game.
Veteran defender and Japan captain Maya Yoshida then headed just over bar from a corner kick.
The introduction of Kobamelo Kodisang for Reeve Frosler appeared to have breathed life into South Africa but nothing much meaningful was done as Japan threatened to double their lead until the final whistle.