Japan 3 – 0 Oman
By staff - Sun Jun 03, 5:51 pm
Saitama – Japan handed Oman a comprehensive 3-0 defeat in front of a record-breaking crowd at Saitama Stadium on Sunday evening as Alberto Zaccheroni’s side made an impressive start to the final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals.
A crowd of 63,551 – the highest ever at the venue that hosted the semifinal of the 2002 FIFA World Cup – witnessed Keisuke Honda, Ryoichi Maeda and Shinji Okazaki seal victory for the Blue Samurai as Japan began a run of three qualifiers in nine days.
The AFC Asian Cup holders host Jordan on June 8 before travelling to meet Australia in Brisbane four days later and the three points collected on Sunday evening gave the Japanese the perfect launch pad for their attempt to qualify for a fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup finals.
“The importance of winning the first match, the players were very well aware of that and so the match went exactly as I had expected,” said Zaccheroni. “Before the match some of the players were a little bit too nervous.
“We took the initiative, or we wanted to do that, but Oman tried to defend. They did not give up many goals in the third round of qualifying so they were very defensive and to break through that we needed to have our own game plan and we kept to that goal.
“The good thing about the team was that we were very offensive, especially down the flanks. There was a lot of space in behind the defence and we were able to exploit that.”
The Japanese led by a solitary goal at half time thanks to Honda, whose 12th minute side-footed volley following Yuto Nagatomo’s perfectly flighted cross found its way past Ali Al Habsi after bouncing through the legs of Jaber Al Owaisi.
Japan’s fluency on the ball threatened to overwhelm the Omanis but it was not until the second half that the continental champions were able to add to their advantage with two goals in three minutes sealing the result.
Six minutes after the restart, Zaccheroni’s team claimed the second goal. Shinji Kagawa cut inside to deliver an angled ball into the box that Maeda pushed past Al Habsi via the post.
And three minutes later the result was put beyond any doubt when Okazaki slotted home from close range after Maeda’s shot from the edge of the area was deflected into the VfB Stuttgart striker’s path.
Oman coach Paul Le Guen was realistic after the loss and remains hopeful his team can draw inspiration from the manner in which they defeated Australia in the previous round having earlier lost on the road to the Socceroos.
“There is a huge difference between the level of the teams and that’s why we lost, but after losing to Australia in Australia we said that too and we came back and qualified,” said Le Guen.
“The result is not a huge surprise when you analyse the quality of their players. They are used to playing in big games ad we are not. We are not used to the intensity and that’s why it’s hard for them, you have to get used to it and you can’t do miracles.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not so surprised. We have to close the gap to such a team. We are far behind. We have to try and get better. Tonight it was not enough and there was a big difference.”