Uruguay too much for Japan in friendly

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Diego Forlan gave Yoichiro Kakitani a lesson in the art of finishing as the veteran Internacional striker scored a quick-fire double to help Uruguay outclass Japan 4-2 in a friendly in Miyagi on Wednesday night.

All Japanese eyes were on Kakitani aiming to become the first player ever to score in his first three consecutive games for the national team, but Forlan’s two fine strikes in as many first-half minutes put the South American champions in cruise control.

Luis Suarez slammed home the third early in the second half and although Japan quickly pulled one back through Shinji Kagawa, Alvaro Gonzalez headed in a fourth for the visitors.

Japan replied again as Keisuke Honda rounded off the scoring with a stunning free kick.

Manager Alberto Zaccheroni tipped his hat to Oscar Tabarez’s side.

“They were in better physical condition than we were,” Zaccheroni said. “As a team and on an individual basis, we made too many mistakes.”

“Uruguay are one of the top teams in the world. I thought they were a very good team at the Confederations Cup, and they showed that here in Japan.”

Manchester United midfielder Kagawa made no excuses for the lopsided defeat suffered by Japan, who played in a disaster area for the first time since the earthquake and tsunami two years ago.

“With a result like this, I just feel terrible for all the fans who came out to watch us tonight,” Kagawa said. “Clearly, we didn’t do our homework from the Confederations Cup.”

“At the end of the day, they beat us man-per-man. We have less than a year to go to the World Cup and our work is cut out for us.”

With Ryoichi Maeda having been overlooked, Kakitani, who scored three goals in two games to help Japan win the East Asian Cup in South Korea last month, started alone up front with Zaccheroni fielding a near full-strength lineup against the 2010 World Cup semifinalists.

Several European-based players including Kagawa returned for their first match since the Confederations Cup, but Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo, who is nursing a sore right thigh, started on the bench.

The game got off to a lively start and Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had to be alert to push a deflected shot from Japan captain Makoto Hasebe out for a corner after five minutes.

It was Eiji Kawashima’s turn to make his presence felt at the other end, the Belgian-based keeper getting down well to block Suarez and then gathering a powerful low drive from the controversial Liverpool striker.

Honda had a free kick beaten away on 17 minutes but the lively Suarez produced a devastating burst of speed to leave Maya Yoshida for dead, squaring for Forlan to steer home first-time for the opener on 27 minutes.

Japan were still reeling from that blow when Forlan made it 2-0 two minutes later, curling a free kick over the wall and inside the post beyond the despairing dive of Kawashima.

Only another save by Kawashima prevented Cristian Rodriguez from extending the lead on the stroke of halftime.

Japan started the second half with renewed vigor, and Shinji Okazaki missed a great opportunity to pull one back at the start of the first half before Kagawa fired the follow-up straight at Muslera.

But the outstanding Suarez buried the third on 53 minutes after Yoshida failed to properly clear Maximiliano Pereira’s ball into the box.

Japan finally got on the scoresheet straight after the restart, when Kagawa rolled into an empty net after a Honda pass found its way through, only for Gonzalez to stoop and head in Rodriguez’ cross for the fourth in the 58th.

Honda scored a peach of a free kick in the 63rd minute to give Japan hope, but the Asian champions were unable to make any further inroads.

Japan continue their preparations for next year’s World Cup finals with friendlies against Guatemala in Osaka on Sept. 6 and Ghana in Yokohama four days later.

Uruguay, who are struggling in fifth place in the South American qualifying group for Brazil, play Peru away on Sept. 6.