/

Japan suffers demoralizing loss to Cote d’Ivoire

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo News

SION, Switzerland — Marcus Tulio Tanaka put through his own net again as Japan suffered a deflating 2-0 defeat to Cote d’Ivoire in its final warmup for the upcoming World Cup finals on Friday.

Tulio, who scored for both teams in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to England, gifted Cote d’Ivoire the lead after 13 minutes before Kolo Toure pounced to seal victory 10 minutes from time at Sion’s Stade Tourbillon.

Japan was second best all over the pitch against a Cote d’Ivoire side that lost star striker and captain Didier Drogba to injury early on, and Takeshi Okada’s men now head for South Africa on Saturday with confidence at rock bottom after a fourth consecutive defeat.

“This has made me realize that I have players who can compete against a team like this and players who can’t,” said Okada. “We conceded and our opponents created a zone that prevented us from creating many chances in front of goal.”

Asked if he had a clearer idea of who would be playing in Japan’s World Cup opener against Cameroon on June 14, Okada said, “I don’t plan to make any dramatic changes.”

Okada named an unchanged side to the one that started in Sunday’s match in Austria, meaning Eiji Kawashima kept his place in goal at the expense of Seigo Narazaki and playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura started on the bench.

Japan fell behind when Tulio diverted the ball in after Drogba’s free kick had cannoned off Japan’s defensive wall and the Brazilian-born defender then picked up a booking for a foul on Drogba, who trudged off the pitch clutching his right arm and was replaced by former Kashiwa Reysol striker Seydou Doumbia.

Doumbia showed a lightning turn of pace and nearly doubled the Africans’ lead on 29 minutes with a shot that fizzed just over Kawashima’s crossbar.

Japan’s first chance did not arrive until five minutes before halftime, when Keisuke Honda collected Yasuyuki Konno’s ball but fired way off target.

Okada made three midfield changes at halftime, bringing on Shunsuke Nakamura, Kengo Nakamura and Junichi Inamoto.

Cote d’Ivoire goalkeeper Barry Boubcar just about managed to hold Shunsuke Nakamura’s 50th-minute free kick but Japan suffered another blow when Konno was stretchered off after a horrible challenge from Emmanuel Eboue.