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Okubo notches pair of goals in rout of Egypt

by James Mulligan

Yoshito Okubo opened his international account in style on Wednesday evening with a well-taken brace in Japan’s 4-1 thrashing of Egypt.

News photoJapan forward Yoshito Okubo dribbles during an international friendly match against Egypt on Wednesday at
Osaka’s Nagai Stadium. Japan won 4-1.
KYODO PHOTO

Okubo broke his duck at the 21st time of asking with a stunning left-foot shot that flew into the top corner in the 21st minute of the friendly match at Osaka’s Nagai Stadium.

The Vissel Kobe marksman followed up with a well-placed header off a cross from Yasuhito Endo on 42 minutes.

“I’m so relieved — finally I’ve got it after all this time,” said the former Real Mallorca striker of his first goals for Japan.

Forward partner Ryoichi Maeda opened his international account also — although it took the Jubilo Iwata man only two games to do so — with a stylish finish on 53 minutes, making amends for two misses in the first half.

The African Nations Cup champion Egyptians were woefully under strength, missing a raft of players from Al Ahly, which is preparing to defend its CAF Champions League crown. Also absent was Middlesbrough striker Mido.

The visitors struggled throughout against Ivica Osim’s well-organized unit but did pull a goal back on 58 minutes when Mohamed Fadl used his head to deflect a free-kick from Hosni Abdrabo past ‘keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

But 10 minutes later, full-back Akira Kaji turned inside wonderfully and rolled a delightful left-foot shot into the far post for his second goal for Japan.

“Egypt are a strong side and we did well against them,” said Osim, Japan’s national team coach. “I don’t think the scoreline properly reflected the different strengths between the teams. They had players missing.”

The Bosnian coach felt positive at the end of a year in which he came under fire after a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Asian Cup finals

“Things are working well. I have strong hopes for my players for next year.”

Osim left out Europe-based players, including Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Naohiro Takahara and Junichi Inamoto.

The Bosnian also did Urawa Reds boss Holger Osieck a favor by resting center-back Marcus Tulio Tanaka and striker Tatsuya Tanaka ahead of the Saitama giants’ Asian Champions League semifinals second leg next week.

Japan’s victory marked the end of its international fixtures for 2007. There are doubts over whether there will be another game before Osim’s men start their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign in February next year.