OSAKA – Takayuki Morimoto added a couple of brushes to Japan’s Italian Renaissance as the Serie A striker stroked a double in a controlling 2-1 victory over Guatemala on Tuesday night.
The Catania-based Morimoto netted twice in a span of eight first-half minutes at Nagai Stadium as acting coach Hiromi Hara handed the team over to Italian boss Alberto Zaccheroni with two wins from two games.
Morimoto, who now has three goals in eight appearances for Japan and left to a rousing ovation from the crowd of 44,541, said he wanted to prove his worth to the new manager by scoring goals.
“I’m a forward and my job is to score goals. I had to show the manager I’m capable of doing that,” the 22-year-old Morimoto said. “I’ve got to solidify my place at Catania now. I just want to keep getting games.”
Zaccheroni will make his debut as Japan manager in a friendly on Oct. 8 against Argentina at Saitama Stadium 2002, followed by a match four days later against South Korea in Seoul.
Zaccheroni is targeting at least a top-three finish at the Asian Cup in Qatar in January.
“The Asian Cup is our goal, but we also have two matches before that against Argentina and South Korea,” the former Juventus coach said. “I think the Asian Cup will be a difficult competition for us.”
Hara shuffled the lineup from the 1-0 win against Paraguay, changing six of the 11 who started three days ago at Nissan Stadium to give Zaccheroni more players to look at ahead of the Argentina game.
Goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki wore the armband after central defender Yuji Nakazawa pulled out earlier in the day with a torn right calf muscle, an injury that will sideline him for six weeks.
Japan was off to a quick start against the world’s 119th-ranked team, opening the scoring in the 12th minute with Morimoto’s first goal of the evening.
World Cup left back Yuto Nagatomo, who transferred to the Serie A’s Cesena from FC Tokyo this summer, set up Morimoto with a cross into the heart of the penalty area.
Morimoto beat Guatemala keeper Ricardo Trigueno with a quick nod, scoring his first goal for the national team since a 5-0 drubbing of Togo in October last year.
Morimoto’s second in the 20th minute was a bit scrappier, the former Tokyo Verdy man poking in the rebound from a shot by Shinji Kagawa, who had the only goal in the Paraguay game.
Guatemala tried to prove it wasn’t a pushover, pulling within one two minutes later through forward Mario Rodriguez, whose blast from the edge of the box went off Narazaki’s hand and over the line.