OSAKA – Japan found its scoring touch to thrash Tajikistan 8-0 on Tuesday and stay on course for a place in the final qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup.
Japan had notched only three goals in its three previous games going into the match at Nagai Stadium, but it took just 11 minutes for Mike Havenaar to give the home side the lead in his first national team start, before Shinji Okazaki doubled the advantage eight minutes later.
Yuichi Komano and Shinji Kagawa scored two more before the first half was out, and Havenaar added another a minute after the restart as Alberto Zaccheroni’s side threatened to run up a cricket score. Kengo Nakamura, Kagawa and Okazaki completed the rout to give Japan its biggest win since beating Uzbekistan by the same scoreline at the 2000 Asian Cup.
“This was a win that leaves us with a great feeling,” said Zaccheroni. “We knew there were high expectations on us for this match, and all the players responded to that very well.”
Japan leads Group C on goal difference from Uzbekistan, which beat North Korea 1-0 in Pyongyang earlier in the day. Two teams progress to the final qualifying round, and a four-point cushion separates Japan and the Uzbeks from third-place North Korea with three games remaining.
Striker Tadanari Lee was dropped to the bench despite scoring in last Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Vietnam, with Havenaar coming in to replace him at the focal point of a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Japan made its intentions clear with a blistering start that saw Okazaki and Maya Yoshida both go close within the first five minutes, and the opening goal was not long in coming. Komano sent an inviting ball into the Tajik box, and Havenaar duly obliged with a crashing header that gave opposing goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev no chance.
Okazaki made it two less than 10 minutes later, slicing open the defense with an angled run into the penalty area before dispatching a shot with the outside of his boot.
Komano’s excellent work down the right flank was rewarded when he added a third in the 35th minute, seizing on a weak clearance to drive the ball through a crowded box.
Kagawa got in on the act minutes before halftime, beating Tuychiev with an imperious flick after a low cross from Nakamura.
Komano again supplied Havenaar for a header almost as soon as the second half got under way, and Yoshida, Yuto Nagatomo and Okazaki all incredibly hit the woodwork in the 10 minutes that followed. Nakamura hit the target in the 56th minute, however, drilling a low shot into the corner for No. 6.
Kagawa added a seventh with a delicious curler from the edge of the box, before Okazaki rounded off the scoring with another header in the 68th.
Sasaki gets extension
The Japan Football Association said Tuesday it has extended women’s national team coach Norio Sasaki’s contract through September next year to coincide with the completion of the 2012 London Olympics.
Sasaki’s contract would normally run until the end of January next year, but the JFA decided to extend it until Sept. 30, 2012, after the world champions booked a berth for the London Games last month.
“He has received high marks for his performance, so that’s why he will receive this contract,” said JFA vice president Kozo Tashima.
Sasaki led the Japanese team to their first-ever victory in the Women’s World Cup in July, stunning the United States 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in extra time.