DOHA – Japan eased the pressure on coach Takeshi Okada with a comprehensive 3-0 win away to Qatar in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.
Goals from Tatsuya Tanaka, Keiji Tamada and Marcus Tulio Tanaka gave Japan its first ever win over Qatar at the scene of its infamous “Tragedy of Doha,” in the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup and kept Okada’s men in second spot in Asian zone Group A.
Japan has seven points from three games, two behind Australia, which made it three wins out of three after a last-gasp goal from Mark Bresciano secured a 1-0 victory over Bahrain in Manama.
“We knew it would be a tough game but the players showed what they were made of and I’m grateful for that,” said Okada, whose preparations were disrupted following the withdrawals of goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki and defender Yuji Nakazawa through injury.
“Injuries are part and parcel of the game but I wasn’t worried about that. We were well prepared. I thought we would put on a good performance today and I am glad we got the right result,” added Okada, who had come under fire after Japan was held 1-1 at home to Uzbekistan in its last qualifier in Saitama in October.
Ibrahim Abdulmajed’s fourth-minute header gave Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi an early taste of the action but Japan did not take long to find its rhythm, and Tatsuya Tanaka fired the visitors in front after 19 minutes.
Atsuto Uchida’s long ball into the box found Tanaka, and the pint sized striker capitalized on sloppy defending from Bilal Rajab to sneak in and prod through the legs of Qatar goalkeeper Mohamed Saqr from a tight angle.
Qatar offered little in response and Japan underlined its dominance two minutes into the second half when Tamada grabbed his third goal in as many games with a shot that proved to hot too handle for Saqr from the edge of the box.
Yoshito Okubo nearly twisted the knife in Qatar’s heart when he saw his shot brilliantly turned over the crossbar by Saqr 10 minutes later, but Tulio put the game out of reach when he rose to head home Shunsuke Nakamura’s cross at the far post on 68 minutes.
Defeat left Qatar three points behind Japan having played a game more. Bahrain and Uzbekistan have just one point each from three games.
Japan faces Australia in its next qualifier in Yokohama on Feb. 11.
“Little by little we are getting better but there is still a long way to go and anything can happen in the qualifiers,” said Okada. “All the games are important and we will just do our best in the next game.”