TUNIS – Italian-based striker Atsushi Yanagisawa scored his first goal in national team colors in almost two years Wednesday as Japan won 1-0 away to Tunisia in the first match of its mini-tour of Africa and Europe.
The Sampdoria forward put some recent disappointing performances behind him with a cool finish in the 39th minute to give Japan a confidence boosting win as Zico’s men continue their build up to the Asian qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
“It was a very tough match tonight. We were a bit stiff in the early stages but once the players settled down we were able to put some flowing attacking moves together,” said Zico.
The win was Japan’s third away from home under Zico and improved the Brazilian’s record to four wins, three draws and six losses since he took over the national team in summer last year.
Chances were at a premium in a scrappy opening half and it was Tunisia that came closest to opening the scoring when French-based midfielder Adel Chedli saw a low shot fizz past Seigo Narazaki’s right-hand post on 12 minutes.
Japan had to wait until the 33rd minute for its first real effort on goal. Debutant Akira Kaji tried his luck with a long-range effort but Tunisia goalkeeper Khaled Fadehl was equal to it.
But the visitors took the lead six minutes later as Yanagisawa latched onto a deep pass from defender Teryuki Moniwa before burying the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
It was Yanagisawa’s 10th goal in 34 appearances for Japan and first since scoring in the 1-1 draw at home to Italy in November 2001.
Tunisia pressed for an equalizer after the break but squandered a chance to level just before the hour mark when defender Khaled Badra beat Narazaki to a free-kick from the right only to see his header sail aimlessly wide.