Japan took their recent
frustrations out on Tajikistan by thrashing the former Soviet
republic 8-0 on Tuesday to seize top spot in their 2014 World
Cup qualifying group.
Mike Havenaar, Shinji Okazaki and midfielder Shinji Kagawa
scored two apiece in Osaka as hapless Tajikistan suffered a
backlash from Japan's recent dip in form.
"We knew we were expected to win but it felt good to win in
such emphatic fashion," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said in a
"We expect goals from Shinji [Kagawa] and Okazaki but
Havenaar deserves a mention too. All the players stepped up
tonight and performed very well."
Beanpole striker Havenaar opened the scoring after 11
minutes with a bullet header, his first goal for Japan throwing
the floodgates open.
Okazaki and Yuichi Komano then found the net before an
audacious flick from midfielder Kagawa made it 4-0 just before
Japan had struggled in their first two Asian Group C
qualifiers, scraping past North Korea 1-0 at home after an
injury-time goal and escaping with a lucky 1-1 draw in
Uzbekistan beat North Korea 1-0 in Pyongyang earlier on
Tuesday to keep pace with Japan on seven points.
However, the Blue Samurai put plenty of daylight between the
teams in terms of goal difference, the Peter Crouch-like
Havenaar scoring his second before Nakamura Kengo made it 6-0.
Kagawa added a fine curling effort in the 67th minute before
Okazaki poached his second, his ninth goal in six games under
Italian Zaccheroni, still unbeaten in 15 games since taking
charge last October.
"That was deliberate," smiled Borussia Dortmund's Kagawa,
who had been suffering from a recent crisis of confidence, when
asked about his second goal.
"It was a shot. To score at what used to be my home stadium
was special," added Kagawa, who previously played at Nagai
Stadium for Cerezo Osaka. "It will give me a real lift."
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