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Japan humbled by Brazil in heaviest defeat under Zaccheroni

Kyodo

Six years after their last meeting, the gap between Japan and Brazil has not closed much.

Japan remained winless against Brazil as the Asian champions suffered their worst loss under Alberto Zaccheroni on Tuesday, suffering a humbling 4-0 defeat in a friendly at the hands of the five-time World Cup winners.

The sublime Neymar scored on either side of halftime while Paulinho and Kaka chipped in with a goal each at the Municipal Stadium.

The last time the two teams played, Japan, under Zico, was thrashed 4-1 in the last group game of the 2006 World Cup. The Blue Samurai now have a total of seven defeats and two draws against the Selecao, and they will meet again in June at the Confederations Cup in Brazil.

It was Japan’s first defeat since Feb. 29, when it lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier.

“As I said at the press conference yesterday, Brazil and Spain are the leaders of international football,” Zaccheroni said. “We were fully aware they are in a different class but the important thing was to see how Japan would respond in the face of such adversity.

“The result obviously is disappointing, but I’m pleased with the way we approached the game. I hope we play more teams like them so we can gain on the world’s best side, and eventually stand toe-to-toe against them,” he added.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes paid Japan a compliment — but with respect to Iraq and China, who his team whipped 6-0 and 8-0, respectively, in recent friendlies.

“I would say Japan are the strongest out of those teams. They saw a lot of time on the ball,” Menezes said. “Things worked out for us tactically, and we were able to score a few goals.”

Keisuke Honda was back in the lineup after sitting out Friday’s win over France with a bruised right calf.

Zaccheroni benched forward Mike Havenaar, who started the France game, and played Honda up front on his own, with Kengo Nakamura again in the hole flanked by Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake.

It was Honda who took the first stab for Japan in the ninth minute, jabbing at Brazil goalkeeper Diego Alves from the edge of the box after a short ball from Kagawa.

Japan continued to link well but the Brazilians opened the scoring after 12 minutes when Paulinho let loose from almost 30 meters out. Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was a heartbeat late to react, his fist getting under the shot that bounced into the net.

Japan was not helped by a harsh decision by the referee, who awarded Brazil a penalty in the 26th minute.

Yasuyuki Konno put a clean tackle on Kaka inside the box, but the referee ruled that the Japanese defender handled as he went down and the ball spilled over his right arm. Neymar read Kawashima well from the spot to make it 2-0 for his first of the afternoon.

With a stinging effort from 25 meters, captain Makoto Hasebe forced an outstretched save from Diego Alves before the intermission, but Brazil added to its tally just three minutes into the second half.

Japan was on the end of more misfortune when Neymar fired from close range with nowhere to go. But the shot went off defender Maya Yoshida’s knee, and was redirected inside the left post with Kawashima completely wrong-footed.

Brazil was in cruise control after opening up a three-goal lead, just trying to hit desperate Japan with the occasional counter.

Honda and Kagawa valiantly tried to make it a game but Menezes’ side poured salt in Japan’s wounds in the 76th minute as Kaka struck off Kawashima’s leg to close out the scoring.

“There’s no question it hurts because I wasn’t expecting us to lose by this big of a margin,” Honda said. “We wanted to set the tempo right from the start, but they scored their first two goals early and took control the way we wanted to.”

“The biggest difference between us and them was the accuracy in front of goal,” he said.

Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo became the most capped player in Japan national team history with his 123rd appearance.

The 32-year-old Endo had tied former captain and defender Masami Ihara’s record by playing against France.