Japan wrapped up its preparations for its 2006 World Cup Asian qualifying campaign by beating Iraq 2-0 in a friendly on Thursday evening.
Sampdoria striker Atsushi Yanagisawa headed home just after the interval before Alessandro Santos added a late second to seal the win for Japan in its final game before setting off on the road to the finals in Germany against Oman in Saitama next Wednesday.
“We won, but we made too many mistakes. We let our opponents have the advantage especially in the first half, while we were forced to play at their pace. We can’t let that happen. We have to be able to win more comfortably,” said Japan coach Zico.
Zico made just two changes to the team that thrashed Malaysia 4-0 in Kashima on Saturday, with Yanagisawa playing his first game since last November and Seigo Narazaki returning between the posts after Yoichi Doi was handed his Japan debut at the weekend.
The first half failed to provide any excitement to warm the crowd of 38,622 on a chilly evening at National Stadium who had to wait until two minutes after the interval for Japan to break the deadlock.
Santos found space down the left flank and whipped over an inch-perfect cross for Yanagisawa to guide home his 12th goal in 38 appearances.
Iraq, which starts its World Cup campaign against Uzbekistan next week, almost snatched a late equalizer but Razak F. Mossa was thwarted by Narazaki, who picked up a national team record sixth consecutive clean sheet.
Santos completed the job when he finished a neat one-two with Kubo six minutes from time to stretch Japan’s unbeaten run to eight matches.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.