SAITAMA – Japan took control of its 2014 World Cup qualifying group in ferocious style with a 6-0 win over Jordan on Friday to claim maximum points from two games on the road to Brazil.
Japan began the final five-team stage with a convincing 3-0 home win over Oman last Sunday, and the Asian champions signalled their intent to give Jordan the same treatment when Ryoichi Maeda headed in an 18th-minute opener at Saitama Stadium.
Keisuke Honda doubled the lead three minutes later before Jordan was reduced to 10 men shortly before the half-hour mark, and the one-way traffic continued as Honda and Manchester United-bound Shinji Kagawa both scored to send Japan into halftime with a 4-0 advantage.
Honda completed his hat trick from the penalty spot eight minutes after the break before substitute Yuzo Kurihara completed the rout one minute from time, helping Japan lay down an impressive marker ahead of its next qualifying match away to Australia on Tuesday.
“We had very little time to prepare after the Oman game, but I gave my players some instructions and they carried them out very well,” said manager Alberto Zaccheroni. “We played Jordan at the Asian Cup last year and they are very physical and never give up.
“Because of that it was important to use the space on the wings, and we did that very well. The players were all very concentrated except for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Everyone put in an outstanding performance tonight.”
Honda took his tally to four goals in two games after opening the scoring against Oman last week, but Japan’s mesmerizing passing and superb movement made the game anything but a one-man show.
“The passes coming my way were fantastic, and the fact that I also scored a penalty helped me get my hat trick,” said Honda. “I really have to say thanks to my teammates.”
It was Kagawa who looked liveliest in the game’s opening stages, however, and the 23-year-old drew a good save out of goalkeeper Amer Shafi after chesting down a long Yasuhito Endo pass and swiveling to volley in the fifth minute.
Shafi turned away a clever first-time effort from Honda just over 10 minutes later, but the visiting defense was badly at fault when Maeda notched the opener. Honda swung in a corner, and Maeda outjumped Saeed Almurjan for as simple a headed goal as he could wish for.
Three minutes later, with Jordan’s defense still reeling, Japan made it two. Endo played the ball into space in the penalty area, and Honda raced through to stab the ball home before Shafi could reach it.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Abdallah Deeb collected his second yellow for a foul on Makoto Hasebe, and Honda took full advantage as he stuffed home a deflected Shinji Okazaki shot at the back post for Japan’s third of the evening.
Kagawa then threatened to turn the match into a whitewash, clipping the ball into the the corner of the net with a perfectly calibrated shot from the edge of the box.
The gloss was taken off slightly when defender Maya Yoshida left the pitch on a stretcher to be replaced by Kurihara minutes before halftime, and although Jordan made a promising start to the second period, Honda grabbed his hat trick with a penalty after Maeda had been tripped in the 53rd minute.
Substitutes Kengo Nakamura and Masahiko Inoha were both denied as Japan attempted to add to its tally, but there was still time for Kurihara to make his mark in the 89th minute, heading in at the far post after the ball had come back in after a corner.
“Tonight was very difficult for us, especially after we lost a man so early, and we made a lot of mistakes,” said Jordan manager Adnan Hamad. “Japan are in their best condition at the moment, and they are playing exceptionally well. Our players are at the end of a long season and we are very tired. That had a big effect.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5