Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Japan down Socceroos in final Asian Cup warmup

Reuters

Japan’s Shinji Okazaki, left, shoots past Australia’s Mathew Leckie in their international friendly in Osaka, Japan, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Japan banged in two goals in an eight-minute blitz to set up a 2-1 win over Australia in a key Asian Cup warmup match in Osaka, Japan, yesterday.

The Socceroos created the better chances in a scoreless first half, but were overrun by the Blue Samurai in the second.

Japan substitute Yasuyuki Konno opened the scoring in the 61st minute when he headed the ball into the Australia net after being left unmarked, then striker Shinji Okazaki added a second with a spectacular back-heel.

Japan missed a string of chances to increase their lead before Australia pulled one back in stoppage-time when the Socceroos’ best player, Tim Cahill, who only came on as a late substitute, scored with a trademark header.

POSITIVE CAHILL

“I said last week: ‘I’ll affect the game in a positive way,’ and I did,” Cahill told reporters.

“We played fantastic tonight. We just got to believe,” he said.

“We’re fearless. We have nothing to lose. I’m just buzzing for the Asian Cup,” he added.

Despite Cahill’s confidence, Japan are looming as the likely favorites to defend their Asian Cup title when the tournament takes place in Australia in January next year.

The teams met in the final in 2011, with Japan winning 1-0 in extra-time, and yesterday’s match was both country’s last warmup before the 16-nation tournament.

IMPROVEMENT NEEDED

Australia have lost eight of their past 12 matches and head coach Ange Postecoglou said they clearly needed to improve if they hoped to win on home soil, but there were some good signs.

“We lost our shape in the second half. Our first half was positive, but the way we let ourselves down, it’s disappointing,” Postecoglou told reporters.

“I don’t regret bringing Timmy on that late. I needed to blood players. We let ourselves down,” he said.

“We still have to get details right. I thought tonight against a really good opponent, for 45, 50 minutes we were good,” the Australia coach added.

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