SAITAMA — Within five minutes of the Asia Zone Group 3 World Cup qualifier between Japan and India at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Wednesday, it was clear that the only interest in this game from a spectator’s point of view would be how many Japan players could get their names on the scoresheet.
In the end it was six in a 7-0 rout that could easily have resembled a score more common in India’s favorite past time — cricket.
Japan was missing most of its big names including captain Hidetoshi Nakata but clearly didn’t need them on the night.
“We took our chances very well today and that was the difference,” Zico told Reuters after the game.
“The players worked hard for their goals and deserved this result. But we still have a job to do and that is to make sure we keep producing the right results so we win this group.”
Japan should have been one up in the fourth minute when a cross from the left from Shinji Ono found Yuji Nakazawa open in front of goal but somehow the ball failed to connect with the Japanese defender’s impressive Afro.
The scoresheet did not remain clean for very long though, a deft chip over the Indian defense — what there was of it — was met first time on the volley by the dangerous-looking Tatsuhiko Kubo, who made no mistake.
In the 25th minute, Kubo turned provider heading a cross from the effervescent Shunsuke Nakamura into the path of Takahashi Fukunishi who did well to volley home for the second.
Five minutes later, it was three as the Indians began to run around as if lost in the Rajhastan desert and Japan started distributing the ball democratically about the park. Kubo was bundled over outside the box and Nakamura stepped up to curl the ball into the top-left corner from a short run-up for 3-0.
In the second half the introduction of human-tenpin Takayuki Suzuki surprisingly failed to curb the goal trend. In fact it was Suzuki who was credited with Japan’s goal after fine work and a powerful shot from Keiji Tamada ricocheted off Suzuki’s rear — this time he managed to stay on his feet — wrongfooting Indian ‘keeper Sangram Mukherjee.
In the 66th minute, Nakazawa made up for his earlier shocker with a right-foot volley off a corner that evaded everyone. This time Nakazawa simply could not miss the first of his two goals in Zico’s largest victory margin since taking charge.
Second-half substitute Mitsuo Ogasawara added the sixth after neatly dummying the goalkeeper and Nakazawa hit the jackpot with No. 7 in the 77th minute.
For India, midfielder Climax Lawrence’s performance was the only one to get excited about although he was pulled midway through the second half.
Kubo stood out for Japan as a striker of genuine potential in a department that has been a problem in the recent past. The man displayed sharp movement off the ball, strength in the air and a cool finish.
Zico will be pleased with the three points and lack of injuries but will not have learned too much from some of his younger players in what amounted to a practice match.
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