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Marcus Tulio Tanaka celebrated his international return with a goal and substitute Koji Yamase opened his national team account as Japan beat Cameroon 2-0 on Wednesday in its first match since last month’s Asian Cup flop.

News photoJapan forward Tatsuya Tanaka battles Cameroon defender Rigobert Song for the ball during the first half
of their international friendly match on Wednesday at Kyushu Oil Dome in Oita. Japan won 2-0.
KYODO PHOTO

Forced to miss Japan’s failed bid for a third straight continental title in Southeast Asia through injury, Tulio put the hosts in front in the 25th minute of a scrappy friendly with a well-taken header in sticky conditions at Kyushu Oil Dome.

The home side was forced onto the back foot for long periods of the second half after a flurry of substitutions but Yamase sealed the win with a powerful drive a minute from time.

Coach Ivica Osim made a handful of changes to the side that lost to South Korea in the Asian Cup third-place playoff in Indonesia, with Tatsuya Tanaka and debutant Ryoichi Maeda starting up front and returnee Yoshito Okubo behind them in an attacking midfield role.

The fleet-footed Tanaka proved to be a handful for the Africans in the early stages and he earned the free-kick that led to his Urawa Reds teammate’s goal after a foul by Stephane Bikey.

Yasuhito Endo stepped up to whip in the dead ball from the left side of the box and Tulio was on hand to beat Cameroon goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou with a glancing header.

Cameroon nearly hit back two minutes later as Stephane Mbia dragged his shot across the face of goal after rounding Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi but Joseph Desire Job’s 41st-minute effort failed to properly test the Japan ‘keeper.

The Indomitable Lions moved up a gear in the second period but were guilty of poor finishing, substitute Idrissou Mohamadou spurning their best chance when, with space and time, he fired over after 67 minutes.

The miss proved costly as Yamase drilled home from the edge of the area after coming on to win his second cap.

“This was a good experience for the fans and the team. The match gave us an idea of what level we are at and I am pleased that we were able to win against such a strong opponent,” said Japan boss Osim.

Tulio added, “It was a good ball in (for the free-kick) and I was able to play a part. You wouldn’t think the Cameroonians are human, such is the physical ability they possess. But we managed to keep them out and didn’t allow them so many chances.”

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