Full-strength squad named
Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda were named among a full-strength Japan squad by coach Alberto Zaccheroni yesterday for the final round of Asian 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Japan is scheduled to play three final-round qualifiers against Oman, Jordan and Australia next month. Kagawa demonstrated why he is being linked with a move to Manchester United during the off-season with a superb first goal in Japan’s 2-0 friendly win over Azerbaijan on Wednesday. Honda came through unscathed in his first Japan outing for nine months after recovering from injury, while Arsenal’s teenage winger Ryo Miyaichi has been selected after making his long-awaited international debut. Asian champions Japan take on Oman on June 3 and Jordan on June 8 in Saitama, before a difficult trip to Brisbane to tackle Australia four days later. The Blue Samurai are also drawn alongside Iraq, led by former Japan coach Zico, in Group B.
Corinthians, Boca go through
The Copa Libertadores served up a double dose of late drama as Boca Juniors and Corinthians scored last-gasp goals in Wednesday night’s games to reach the semi-finals. Santiago Silva scrambled home a 90th minute goal to give six-time champions Boca a 1-1 draw at Fluminense, which sent them through 2-1 on aggregate. In the other match, Paulinho headed an 87th minute winner for Corinthians, the only goal of a dour, fear-ridden two-leg tie against their fellow Brazilians, Vasco da Gama.
Anelka might have problem
Shanghai Shenhua player-coach Nicolas Anelka has said there would be a problem if the Chinese club replaced him with former Argentina boss Sergio Batista. Chinese media have reported that struggling Shanghai will name the 49-year-old former Argentine midfielder as manager, with Anelka reverting back to a sole playing role. The Frenchman, who was famously kicked out of the 2010 World Cup for comments directed at then-coach Raymond Domenech, was unhappy at the prospect. “I don’t know this coach. I haven’t heard anything about this from the club. I have only learnt this from the media,” Anelka said at a news conference in Shanghai yesterday. “If that is going to happen, there is a huge problem of communication between me and the club, because of the language barrier. I am not aware of anything that is happening,” added the 33-year-old, speaking in French. “I am a coach, but also I am a player before anything. If something happens and I am not aware of it, you should know that I am a player and that would be a problem in the future, because I will still be here.”
Saudi clubs advance
Saudi Arabian clubs al-Hilal and al-Ittihad both advanced to the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League with resounding wins on Wednesday. South Korean striker Yoo Byung-soo scored four goals to lead al-Hilal to a 7-1 thrashing of Baniyas of the United Arab Emirates in their round-of-16 matchup, while al-Ittihad beat Iranian side Piroozi 3-0. Sweden winger Christian Wilhelmsson added two goals for al-Hilal. Naif Hazazi, Abdelghani Faouzi and Abdoh Autef scored for al-Ittihad. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabian club al-Ahli and Iran’s Sepahan also advanced to the quarter-finals.