• Kyodo


Japan erupted for four first-half goals including a brace by Shinji Kagawa to slaughter Bulgaria 7-2 in the Kirin Cup on Friday.

Japan’s other Shinji, Okazaki of Leicester City, needed only four minutes to open the scoring and move within one of 50 goals for his international career.

Kagawa struck the next two in a space of eight minutes to put the game to bed before Maya Yoshida tacked on the fourth by the 38th minute for Japan, which will face coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s native Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday in Osaka for the Kirin Cup title.

Yoshida, along with substitutes Takashi Usami and Takuma Asano, added to the damage in the second half to cap Japan’s biggest rout since its 8-0 home win over Tajikistan in a World Cup qualifier five years ago. It was the third time Japan scored at least six goals in a game under Halilhodzic.

“We played a brilliant game,” Halilhodzic said. “I want to congratulate everyone. We showed some tremendous quality on attack. But I’m not so happy about the two goals we conceded. They could have been avoided.”

Kagawa had to be substituted just before halftime after taking a hit to his lower back, but the Dortmund playmaker expects to be fit for the Bosnia game at Suita Stadium.

“There’s some pain there. I’ll see how I feel,” Kagawa said. “It’s probably bruised. I should be OK for the next one.”

Keisuke Honda was unavailable due to a left-knee injury, but his teammates hardly missed the AC Milan No. 10 as Japan was all over Bulgaria right from the get-go.

“We were tested as a team tonight, to see how we could do without (Honda), and I think each and every player did his part,” Kagawa said. “It was good.”

Okazaki headed home a cross from Yosuke Kashiwagi to unlock the floodgates before Kagawa fired a header of his own in the 27th minute. Kagawa made it 3-0 in the 35th after Hiroshi Kiyotake played a heads-up dummy, and Yoshida joined the action three minutes later to quadruple the hosts’ lead.

Eight minutes into the second half, Yoshida got greedy to follow Kagawa with his first double for country. Usami, who had come on for Kagawa, provided the sixth in the 57th minute with his first Japan goal since October.

One minute to the hour, Eiji Kawashima, who was back in goal for the first time in a year, came far off his line to allow Mihail Alexandrov to pull one back for Bulgaria.

The visitors managed to score a second after 82 minutes through Ivaylo Chochev, but Halilhodzic’s men pulled away three minutes to time, when Asano won a penalty which he converted to open his international account.

“It was an opportunity for me,” Asano said. “Everyone let me take the penalty and I’m glad it went in. I hope I can keep scoring for the senior side. The overseas players are so good. It’s been an eye-opening experience here.”

Despite his long period of absence, Kawashima showed off his reflexes to save a late penalty by Georgi Milanov, as well as keeping out a Dimitar Rangelov header from point-blank range midway through the first half.

Kawashima said his 72nd appearance will undoubtedly be a memorable one for him.

“It meant a lot to be out on the pitch because it wasn’t easy getting back here,” the 33-year-old Kawashima said. “I owe a lot of people including my family for this one.

“Tonight was a big opportunity to prove myself. I always want to be playing. It can be difficult to maintain your concentration when the goals start pouring in, so it wasn’t easy in that sense.”

Earlier Friday, 10-man Bosnia-Herzegovina defeated Denmark 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in 90 minutes.

Captain Haris Medunjanin converted the winning penalty for Bosnia, which was driven by a Milan Duric double. Skipper Simon Kjaer and Viktor Fischer scored for Denmark.


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