• Kyodo


Striker Javier Saviola scored one and set up another to put Argentina on the road to a 4-1 win over Japan in the Kirin Cup on Sunday, further denting Japan coach Zico’s preparations ahead of the upcoming Confederations Cup.

The Barcelona marksman rifled home the opener in the 30th minute at Nagai Stadium in Osaka and fed captain Javier Zanetti for a superb second on the stroke of halftime.

Veteran defender Yutaka Akita pulled one back for the host 10 minutes after the interval but Argentina, missing a number of first-team regulars, got further goals from substitutes Bernando Romeo and Maximiliano Rodriguez to leave Zico still looking for his first win on home soil.

Japan has won just once in six matches under Zico — a 1-0 win against South Korea in Seoul in April — since he took over from Frenchman Philippe Troussier last summer. It was its fifth loss in as many matches to Argentina.

After managing just two shots on goal in the 1-0 defeat to South Korea last week, Zico had demanded an all-out attacking performance against the South Americans.

But a weak shot from Fulham midfielder Junichi Inamoto in the 29th minute was the best the home side had to offer in a first half littered with fouls and Argentina deservedly went in front seconds later.

Valencia midfielder Pablo Aimar jinked his way inside the Japan defense and laid the ball off from the left for Saviola to give Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki no chance with a well-placed shot that flew into the right-hand corner of the net.

Saviola, a constant thorn in Japan’s side, then put through Zanetti, who blasted home from just outside the box to put Argentina in control at the break.

Akita gave Japan hope when he nodded home substitute Alessandro Santos’ corner but Argentina stepped up a gear and Romeo stole in unmarked to lash home the third before Rodriguez sealed an emphatic win eight minutes from time when his shot came back off the post, hit Narazaki’s back and rolled into the net.

Japan faces Paraguay in Saitama on Wednesday before it heads to France for the June 18-29 Confederations Cup, where it is grouped with host and defending champion France, New Zealand and Colombia.

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