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Japan made a triumphant start to the year by demolishing Malaysia 4-0 in an international friendly in Kashima on Saturday evening.

News photoJapan defender Nobuhisa Yamada battles Malaysia defender Yuzaiman for the ball
in the first half during their international friendly Saturday at Kashima Stadium in Ibaraki
Prefecture. Japan trounced Malaysia 4-0.

Midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara set the wheels in motion with the opener in the 10th minute of what turned out to be little more than a practice match as the hosts dominated from start to finish on a bitterly cold evening on the Ibaraki Prefecture coast.

After spurning several decent chances, Ogasawara provided captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto with the second on 37 minutes before further strikes from Nobuhisa Yamada and Yasuhito Endo completed the damage in the buildup match for Japan’s 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The victory was Japan’s biggest under coach Zico and extended its unbeaten run to seven matches.

“I’ve put the players through some quite intensive training sessions this week and I wondered whether the players would last tonight,” Zico said after the match.

“But I thought that they responded well and am really pleased with the way they performed in this condition,” said Zico, who used eight of his nine substitutes during the second half.

“I want to try as many players as possible before the 18th and that’s why I gave most of them a run out today,” he said, referring to Japan’s opening Asian qualifier against Oman on Feb. 18.

The Brazilian reverted to his favored 4-4-2 formation and made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 with South Korea in its final match of 2003 at the inaugural East Asian Football Championship last December.

FC Tokyo goalkeeper Yoichi Doi was handed his international debut, Takuya Yamada and Toshiya Fujita started in midfield and Masashi Motoyama, who impressed after coming off the bench against South Korea, started in front of his home fans in place of suspended striker Yoshito Okubo.

Japan pounced on its opponent from the kickoff and Ogasawara should have given his side the lead after just four minutes but contrived to screw wide after good work on the right from Endo.

The 24-year-old quickly atoned for the miss, however, as Malaysia goalkeeper Azmin Azram misjudged his swerving shot from the edge of the area six minutes later.

The home side continued to press and Motoyama should have doubled the lead on more than one occasion before Miyamoto met Ogasawara’s cross with a bullet header for his first goal for Japan in 27 appearances.

Malaysia, which had rarely made it out of its own half in the opening exchanges, offered little in response and Yamada killed the game off by opening his international account with a well-taken long-range effort from a Motoyama layoff on the stroke of halftime.

More of the same followed in the second half and Endo made it four within seconds of the restart by rifling home after the Malaysian defense had failed to deal with a left-wing cross from Alessandro Santos.

Despite the result, Malaysia caretaker coach Krishnasamy Rajagobal tried to look on the bright side, saying he thought the match had been a good test for his players ahead of their own World Cup qualifying campaign.

“Maybe we gave Japan too much respect, but on the positive side we can build from playing matches like this and take it from here,” he said.

Japan plays Iraq in Tokyo on Wednesday evening before taking on Oman at Saitama Stadium 2002.

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