Determined Japan eases past Guatemala

Kyodo

CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda was on target as Japan got back on the winning track with a comfortable 3-0 win over Guatemala in a friendly in Osaka on Friday night.

Honda came off the bench to head Japan into a 50th-minute lead and fellow substitute Masato Kudo doubled the advantage midway through the second half, before Yasuhito Endo’s free kick wrapped up a one-sided match 14 minutes from time.

“I am satisfied with the result,” said Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni. “I am glad we made lots of chances and scored goals, but when you look at how many opportunities we created I would like us to have scored more.”

Zaccheroni started an experimental lineup at Nagai Stadium, with Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa in the central attacking midfield role and Honda starting on the bench.

Shusaku Nishikawa started at the expense of first-choice goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and Zaccheroni also picked Masato Morishige to partner Maya Yoshida in central defense.

Yuya Osako, who opened his national team account at the East Asian Cup in July, was recalled after being overlooked for the 4-2 defeat to Uruguay last month and, as expected, started up front.

Japan started with purpose and Hiroshi Kiyotake had a shot pushed into the side netting after a lovely flick from Kagawa on 20 minutes, before Morishige headed just over the bar and Osako tested Juan Jose Paredes with a low drive from the edge of the box.

Japan’s defense has been leaking goals of late but it was never really tested by a Guatemala side ranked 93rd in the world.

Yoshida should have opened the scoring five minutes before halftime, but contrived to blaze over the bar after Paredes had dropped a right-wing cross.

Honda came off the bench for Kiyotake, moving Kagawa to the left side, Yoichiro Kakitani replaced Osako for the second half and the move paid dividends in the 50th minute.

Yuto Nagatomo galloped past Jonathan Lopez down the left flank and sent an pinpoint cross for Honda to head in his 17th national team goal at the far post.

Japan continued to pepper shots on the Guatemala goal and Kashiwa Reysol striker Kudo doubled the lead seven minutes after coming on for Shinji Okazaki.

A superb pass from captain Makoto Hasebe picked out Kagawa, who squared the ball for Kudo to bundle over the line, and Endo completed victory with a free kick that took a wicked deflection off the Guatemala wall.

“The new players did well but so did the rest of the team. In attack and defense, everyone made a contribution,” said Zaccheroni.

Japan continues its World Cup preparations with another friendly against Ghana in Yokohama on Tuesday.