• Kyodo


Argentina rebounded from their Copa America disappointment with a comfortable 2-1 win over Asian champion Japan in a friendly in Shizuoka Prefecture on Wednesday.

News photoJapan midfielder Takashi Fukunishi competes with Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme in
an attempt to take control of the ball during the first half of their Kirin Challenge Cup international friendly match at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa as Argentina beat Japan 2-1.

Luciano Galletti and Mario Santana both found the target in the first half and although Takayuki Suzuki replied for the hosts in the 73rd minute, the South Americans held on to spoil Japan’s homecoming party after retaining the Asian Cup in China earlier this month.

Argentina maintained its 100 percent record against Japan having won for a sixth straight time since the teams first met in 1992.

Beaten by archrival Brazil in a penalty shootout in the Copa America final last month, Argentina was missing the likes of Italian-based stars Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo due to club commitments while Japan coach Zico stuck with the core of the mainly domestic-based squad that triumphed in Beijing on Aug. 7.

The Brazilian made just two changes to the side that overcame a hostile reception to beat host China in the final, Seigo Narazaki returning between the posts in place of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Mitsuo Ogasawara filling in for Reggina midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura.

Argentina needed just four minutes to open the scoring as Santana capitalized on some calamitous defending and fed Real Zaragoza striker Galletti to ram home.

Japan lacked any kind of creative spark in the absence of Nakamura and fellow European-based midfielders Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono, and Argentina turned its domination into a deserved second goal in the 40th minute.

Lionel Scaloni sent in a cross from the right and Juan Roman Riquelme helped the ball on to Santana who beat Narazaki with a low drive.

Argentina continued to dictate the proceedings after the interval and 2001 South American Player of the Year Riquelme almost made it three with a curling shot that flew just wide.

Japan had to wait until the 67th minute for its first real scoring opportunity when Keiji Tamada forced a reaction save from Leonardo Franco from close range.

Suzuki pulled one back when he powered home an Alessandro Santos corner with 17 minutes left but Japan was unable to find an equalizer and saw its 12-match unbeaten run come to an end.

“It was difficult after conceding an early goal and the players seemed to be a bit tired after the Asian Cup,” Zico said after the match.

“We have to try and turn things around now and focus on our preparations for the India match.”

Japan plays India in Calcutta on Sept. 8 in an Asian first-round Group 3 qualifier for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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