YOKOHAMA — Akira Kaji scored his first goal for Japan and Masashi Oguro capped a fine forward display with a second-half header to give Japan a 2-1 victory over Iran in their final Group B 2006 World Cup qualifying match at International Stadium Yokohama on Wednesday.

Japan put in an excellent performance in front of the 66,098 fans, scoring in the 28th and 76th minutes, with Ali Daei scoring a consolation penalty for Iran in the 79th. It wasn’t enough, though, for a team that along with Japan had already secured a place in next year’s finals.

Japan finishes top of the group on 15 points from 6 games, with Iran second on 13.

“It was a good win for us. Our only defeat came in Iran and we were able to get revenge tonight,” Japan coach Zico said, referring to the 2-1 defeat in Tehran.

Captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto was equally pleased that revenge was exacted.

“It didn’t matter how we played tonight,” he said. “We just wanted to win.”

Zico stuck with the same team which lost to North Korea 1-0 in the East Asia Championships in July, with no European-based players chosen.

Like Zico, Iran’s Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic was missing his star players, too, including Bayern Munich midfielder and 2004 Asian Player of the Year Ali Karimi. He was happy with his team’s performance, though.

“Both teams proved they are two of the best teams in Asia. I was especially satisfied with our second half performance. We could show power, domination and force,” Ivankovic said.

Japan asserted its authority in the game with a sustained spell of pressure early in the first half.

On 11 minutes, Oguro and Keiji Tamada nearly bundled the ball over the line and barely a minute later Alessandro Santos lashed in an angled drive that stung the palms of Iran ‘keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour.

Oguro then went close with a snap shot from the edge of the area which again Mirzapour did well to keep out. Almost immediately Santos, who was exploiting the space given to him on the left, whipped in a low cross that Iran’s overworked ‘keeper gratefully gathered. The confidence of the home side grew and, refreshingly, Oguro and Tamada began to show flickers of ambition in their approach play.

Japan’s invention was none the the more evident on 23 minutes. Oguro flashed a speculative left-foot curler past the Iran goal after a raking pass from midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara.

Iran briefly threatened with its first chance on 26 minutes, defender Mohammad Nosrati planting a header in the hands of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

But Japan took a deserved lead straight after, with an attack that again originated from the left. Kashiwa Reysol’s Tamada fired in a low cross that evaded both Mirzapour and Oguro, leaving Kaji an easy side-foot finish into an open goal from 7 meters.

Japan was in total control, but a moment of skill from Iran on the stroke of half time nearly cost the boys in blue the lead. Milk turns quicker than veteran forward Daei these days, but he rolled back the years with a beautiful curling shot that hit the upright with Kawaguchi stranded.

This was much to the frustration of Daei who had turned away to start the celebrations.

The next stop for Japan will be a Kirin Cup friendly against Honduras on Sept. 7 at Miyagi Stadium.

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