Wed, Jun 04, 2014 - Page 19 News List

WORLD CUP: Japan beat ‘Ticos’ in Brazil warm-up

BLUE SAMURAI:In a more closely fought game than the 3-1 scoreline implied, the Asian Cup winners trailed Costa Rica until the 60th minute, when Yasuhito Endo equalized

AFP, TAMPA, Florida

Costa Rica’s Roy Miller kicks the ball in their friendly against Japan on Monday in Tampa, Florida, ahead of the start of the FIFA World Cup on June 12.

Photo: AFP

Manchester United striker Shinji Kagawa scored the go-ahead goal in the 80th minute on Monday as Japan defeated Costa Rica 3-1 in a FIFA World Cup warm-up for both teams.

Kagawa stumbled as the ball came to him in the penalty area, but kept his balance and swept a right-footed shot past Costa Rica goalkeeper Keilor Navas to give Japan a 2-1 edge in Tampa, Florida.

Japan’s Yoichiro Kakitani, who came off the bench in the 76th, added an insurance goal in extra-time.

Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz, a striker for Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, opened the scoring in the 31st minute, outracing Japan’s Yasuyuki Konno to reach a centering pass and flick the ball into the net.

However, Yasuhito Endo — a 34-year-old midfielder for J League Division 1 club Gamba Osaka — came on in the second to even the score in the 60th minute.

Japan captain and AC Milan forward Keisuke Honda then left-footed a centering pass to the heart of the penalty area that the onrushing Endo — the oldest player on either roster — blasted into the Costa Rica goal.

After their final tuneup on Friday against Zambia at the same Florida venue, Japan are to fly to Brazil on Saturday and open their Group C campaign on June 14 against Ivory Coast, with subsequent matches against Greece and Colombia.

Costa Rica, who are to have their final warm-up against Ireland on Friday in Philadelphia, face England, Uruguay and Italy in Group D. The Ticos open their World Cup bid against Uruguay on June 14.

Japan hoped to gain insight into Colombia by facing a Costa Rica side guided by Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, who once coached his homeland’s squad.

The Ticos sought similar information about Italy from playing the Blue Samurai, coached by Italian Alberto Zaccheroni, while both teams hoped to adapt to the heat and humidity of Brazil by playing in similar conditions before 7,106 fans at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium.

Reeling from the loss of star scorer Alvaro Saborio to a broken foot and leftback Bryan Oviedo to a broken leg, Costa Rica tested new starters. Joel Campbell, a striker for Greece’s Olympiacos who at 21 was the youngest player on the pitch, got the nod up front, while 30-year-old Junior Diaz of Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05 got the back line call.

Time and again the AFC Asian Cup winners pressed in the first half only to come away empty.

Both teams had solid chances early on, but Ruiz hit wide in the opening seconds, Yoshida Okubo fired high in the second minute and Yeltsin Tejeda’s blast from atop the penalty area was denied by Japan ’keeper Eiji Kawashima in the third.

Yuya Osako nodded a pass over the crossbar in the 11th minute and moments later, Kagawa evaded defender Michael Umana in the middle, but fired a right-footed shot wide.

Honda blasted a shot off the post in the 24th and was thwarted in the 27th after evading Navas, who strayed from the goal to challenge him. Ticos defender Giancarlo Gonzalez beat Honda to the ball and cleared it from danger.

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