KOBE – Asian Cup hero Tadanari Lee was on target as Japan warmed up for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Tajikistan with a comfortable but uninspiring 1-0 win over Vietnam on Friday night.
Lee swept home in the 24th minute but the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker’s first goal since his sensational extra-time volley won Japan the Asian Cup in Qatar in January proved to be the only highlight of a drab affair at Home’s Stadium in Kobe.
Japan faces Tajikistan in its third Group C qualifier for the 2014 finals in Brazil in Osaka on Tuesday.
“We were determined to get a result so I please about that but I think we really have to improve on this performance,” said Lee.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni handed a number of reserves the chance to impress ahead of the Tajikistan game, with Shusaku Nishikawa replacing Eiji Kawashima in goal and Tomoaki Makino, Masahiko Inoha, Jungo Fujimoto and Hajime Hosogai all in the starting lineup.
Deploying an unpopular 3-4-3 shape, Japan looked bereft of ideas in a disjointed first half, but Fujimoto looked lively in patches and created the opener just moments after Shinji Kagawa had been denied from close range.
Makoto Hasebe picked out Fujimoto on the right and the Nagoya Grampus man squared for Lee to steer into the right-hand corner.
Vietnam failed to create a single chance in the opening 45 minutes and Zaccheroni’s men should have taken a two-goal lead into the interval, Makino heading Yuto Nagatomo’s cross from the left just wide of the mark.
Zaccheroni made a rash of substitutions after the break, with Yuki Abe, Genki Haraguchi, Kengo Nakamura and Yuzo Kurihara all entering the fray, but Vietnam twice went close to forcing an equalizer in the first four minutes of the second period.