SUITA, OSAKA PREF. – Japan’s 11-match unbeaten streak came to an end in its last warm-up for the final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday night, Vahid Halilhodzic’s men going down 2-1 to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the four-nation Kirin Cup final.
Hiroshi Kiyotake put Japan in front midway through the first half at Suita Stadium, but menacing Cesena striker Milan Duric’s second brace of the tournament secured the Bosnians the silverware after a pulsating contest.
Denmark thrashed Bulgaria 4-0 in the third-place match earlier thanks to a hat trick from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen.
In an explosive start to the game, Japan, missing injured midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, nearly fell behind with less than two minutes gone.
Goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa did well to save a header from Duric and Takuma Asano then flashed a free header wide at the other end, although a goal would not have counted as the linesman had his flag up for offside.
Nishikawa again did well to turn away a shot from Izet Hajrovic and then another Duric header after Japan had gone close to breaking the deadlock, Kiyotake watching his rasping drive tipped against the crossbar by Ibrahim Sehic.
It would be Kiyotake that opened the scoring in the 28th minute, taking a short pass from Takashi Usami and rattling in off the underside of the crossbar. But Bosnia immediately hit back after the restart, Duric rifling in after Nishikawa could only parry Armin Hodzic’s header.
There was more drama to come on the stroke of halftime as Almir Bekic came to Bosnia’s rescue by hacking clear after Sehic failed to hold Usami’s shot, and Haris Medunjanin’s free kick smacked the crossbar.
Duric put Bosnia up in the 66th minute, steering in Miroslav Stevanovic’s pass after a quickly taken free kick and despite a late onslaught, there was to be no way back for the Blue Samurai.
Japan kick off the World Cup final qualifiers at home to the United Arab Emirates on Sept. 1.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5