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Tatsuhiko Kubo struck his second goal in as many games to give an under-strength Japan a memorable 1-0 win over the Czech Republic in the second of two friendlies in eastern Europe on Wednesday.

News photoJapan striker Tatsuhiko Kubo shoots for goal against the Czech Republic during their international friendly on Wednesday in Prague. Japan won 1-0.

Kubo, who marked his return to the national team by scoring in the 3-2 defeat to Hungary in Budapest on Sunday, rifled home the decisive goal after 32 minutes to give Japan a well-earned victory in Prague.

“The Czech Republic are a strong team and are expected to do well at the European Championship (in June) so to come here and beat them has done wonders for our confidence,” said Japan coach Zico.

“They had chances in the second half but we defended well and our ‘keeper made a couple of great saves,” the Brazilian added.

Fielding a near full-strength side including 2003 European Player of the Year Pavel Nedved, the Czech Republic had the ball in the net after nine minutes but Milan Barros’ shot was ruled out for offside.

With European-based stars Shinji Ono and Junichi Inamoto returning in midfield it was the Japanese, however, that were the more industrious of the two sides in the early stages.

Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech got down well to smother an effort from Kubo after 13 minutes before blocking a powerful shot by Keiji Tamada two minutes later.

Kubo was not to be denied a second time though and gave Japan a deserved lead when he picked up a pass from Inamoto and cut inside from the right to smash an unstoppable shot past Cech for his fifth goal in 22 appearances.

The home side pressed for an equalizer after the interval but Japan stood firm at the back and goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki made two superb saves in the space of as many minutes late on to keep out substitute Vratislav Lokvenc.

Japan’s matches against Hungary and the Czechs served as warm-ups for a World Cup qualifier at home to India on June 9 and its defense of the Asian Cup in China in July.

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