Brave Japan bowed out of the Confederations Cup with its head held high Wednesday after battling to a 2-2 draw against world champion Brazil in their final Group B game.

News photoShunsuke Nakamura of Japan hits a free-kick over the Brazilian wall during their
Confederations Cup game in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday. The match ended 2-2.

Super-sub Masashi Oguro rammed home the equalizer with two minutes remaining as Japan set up a tense finale and threatened to pull off a major upset in front of nearly 45,000 at Cologne Stadium.

But it was the South Americans who booked a semifinal appointment with host Germany thanks to a dazzling display from Ronaldinho, who set up one for Robinho and scored himself either side of a blockbuster from Japan midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura.

Despite a spirited performance, Asian champion Japan, which also had a goal disallowed, went out after finishing behind Brazil on goal difference. Both teams finished the group stage with four points from three games.

Japan coach Zico, who faced his native country for the first time since taking over the national team reins in 2002, said he was happy with his side’s performance but furious that Akira Kaji’s fourth-minute goal had been ruled out for offside.

“I’m happy with the way we played but very angry about the way we have gone out of the tournament,” Zico said.

“It was a legitimate goal and a goal makes all the difference. We have played well at this tournament but we are out because of that goal and there is nothing we can do about it.”

The game began at a frantic pace and Japan thought it had taken a shock lead when Kaji slid home a pass from Mitsuo Ogasawara only for the linesman to raise his flag.

It was a mistake, though, from the FC Tokyo midfielder that led to Brazil’s opener.

Ronaldinho dispossessed Kaji in the Brazil half and burst forward before picking out Robinho, who rolled an angled shot through the legs of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

A moment of magic from Nakamura drew Japan level.

Makoto Tanaka found Nakamura from a short free-kick from Hidetoshi Nakata and the Reggina playmaker let fly with a swerving left-foot drive that beat Marcos from a full 25 meters.

But Brazil’s domination of the opening half was rewarded with a second when Robinho crossed from the left for Ronaldinho to sweep home in the 32nd minute.

Zico replaced Tamada with Sunday’s match-winner Oguro after halftime and he almost created an equalizer for Nakamura but his shot was beaten away.

Oguro, though, gave Japan hope in the dying stages when he beat Marcos after Nakamura’s free-kick had come back off the crossbar, but it was not to be and the Brazil ‘keeper had to be alert to save another Oguro effort in the final seconds as Japan went for the kill with a final push.

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