• Kyodo


It might have been a glaring defensive error from Koji Nakata that gifted Latvia a 2-2 draw in Saturday’s friendly in Riga, but namesake Hidetoshi Nakata believes victory could have been achieved if Japan had shown more of a killer instinct in front of goal.

“We had chances to score more goals in the first half. We didn’t and that’s why the game ended with this result,” Hidetoshi Nakata said after the match.

“Our inability to put away our chances is still something that needs to be put right,” added the Bolton Wanderers star, who was wearing the captain’s armband for the first time since March 2004.

He said ahead of the match that Japan’s tendency to crack when the pressure is on is another problem that needs addressing and his words rung true as the Asian champion collapsed after Latvia reduced the deficit on 67 minutes through Vits Rimkus.

Naohiro Takahara scored a superb long-range effort to give Japan the lead after five minutes and Atsushi Yanagisawa could have netted twice while Shunsuke Nakamura also went close before he put Japan 2-0 up from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute.

But Rimkus’ goal clearly rattled Zico’s men and although they looked like they had done just about enough to hold on, Koji Nakata suffered a moment of madness and his wayward pass was snapped up by Andrejs Rubins to snatch a draw for Latvia.

Koji Nakata, who had performed solidly until he was switched from left back to midfield after Zico made a rash of substitutions, held his hands up and admitted his error had cost Japan dearly.

“I thought I basically did okay today but it was my mistake,” Koji Nakata said. “I think we all got a bit tired as the game wore on and couldn’t keep the ball and keep pushing.”

Coach Zico could not hide his disappointment after watching his side squander a two-goal lead but was confident of an improvement in their next match against Ukraine in Kiev on Wednesday.

“We were 2-0 up and kept our shape well but cracks started appearing after that point,” Zico said, referring to Latvia’s first goal. “But we will go to Ukraine now and win,” added the Brazilian.

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