SAITAMA – Japan’s hopes of qualifying for this summer’s Athens Olympics suffered an unexpected setback Sunday after a 1-0 home defeat to Bahrain in Group B of the final round of Asian zone qualifiers.
Masakuni Yamamoto’s side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in a cagey affair at Saitama Stadium 2002 but was left shell-shocked when Adel Abbas blasted home a loose ball from close range in the 71st minute.
“I thought the players gave it their all tonight and we just couldn’t get the goal we wanted,” Yamamoto said.
“But we’re still top of the group and still in with a chance of making it to Athens. Now we just have to regroup and try and win the last two games,” he added.
Despite the defeat, Japan remained top of the group on goal difference with seven points ahead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
UAE needed a late equalizer from Faisal Khalil to draw 2-2 with winless Lebanon in the day’s opening match at the same stadium.
Japan faces Lebanon on Tuesday at Tokyo’s National Stadium before wrapping up its qualifying campaign against UAE at the same venue on Thursday.
Becks denies rumors
LONDON (AP) David Beckham says he has no reason to leave Real Madrid and has dismissed reports he’s trying to return to the Premier League.
Newspapers in England have suggested he and his family have been unable to settle in Spain and he was about to move out of his rented villa. The papers have linked him with a move to big-spending Chelsea at the end of the season.
But the England captain said he was buying a house in Madrid and, apart from being bothered by photographers, was happy with life in Spain.
“The lease on my house was due to expire at the end of April,” he told the tabloid News of the World.
“We have extended it for one further month to take us until the end of the season when we will be moving into a new house in Madrid. I am looking to buy a house.
“People say there are problems and I want to go back to England but all the speculation surrounding a move back home is rubbish,” Beckham was quoted as saying. “There is absolutely no question of me putting in a transfer request. Why would I?”
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