Japan struggles past Canada in friendly

Kyodo

Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa admitted there were lessons to be learned on Friday after Japan overcame a spirited Canada 2-1 in its last warmup before Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier away to Jordan.

Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring with a soft goal in the ninth minute, but Japan was unable to build on its lead in the first half against a Canada side that had only pride to play for, having already been eliminated in brutal fashion from qualifying for Brazil 2014 with an 8-1 thrashing by Honduras in October.

Marcus Haber leveled for the North Americans before Japan substitute Mike Havenaar atoned for missing an earlier sitter with the decisive goal 16 minutes from time in Doha.

“We took the lead in the first half but were too slow to second balls and didn’t press hard enough,” said Kagawa, who deputized for absent Keisuke Honda in the central midfield role, before moving wide out left following the introduction of Kengo Nakamura after the break.

“If we play like we did in the first half today against Jordan, then things could become very difficult for us.”

Although Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he was able to take positives from the game, notably a fourth goal in three games from in-form Okazaki, Kagawa’s teammates also felt they had not really got going until the second half.

Captain Makoto Hasebe said, “Canada was a good team but even so it was still up to us to play our game at our tempo. We couldn’t pick up the second balls and lost out tackling for the ball.

“I am sure there are going to be periods in the Jordan game where we are going to have our backs against the wall so it is good that we have experienced that in this game.”

Maya Yoshida, one of Japan’s best performers at the heart of a makeshift back four added, “Our opponents pressed hard from the start and it was difficult finding a way past them.”

Zaccheroni admitted his team had lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, but he was pleased with the efforts of Okazaki, whose late goal gave Japan a 2-1 win away to Oman in November, putting the Blue Samurai on the brink of qualification against Jordan.

“Whenever his teammates have the ball, Okazaki is always trying to get into scoring positions and as a forward that is the way it should be. As a coach that is what you want from your strikers,” said the Italian.