Asian champions Japan reached the
fourth round of World Cup qualifying on Friday after they
thrashed Tajikistan 4-0 away and Uzbekistan overcame a defensive
North Korea side 1-0.
Japan striker Shinji Okazaki scored twice with Yasuyuki
Konno and Ryoichi Maeda also on target as Alberto Zaccheroni
extended his unbeaten run as the country's coach to 18 games
with the easy victory on an awful pitch.
Japan lead Group C with 10 points from four matches in the
third round of the Asia zone 2014 World Cup qualifying
competition and will be one of 10 sides in the fourth round.
"The result was the most important thing today. We want to
have already qualified for the final stage before we play our
last game against Uzbekistan so the win was crucial," Italian
Zaccheroni told reporters before Uzbekistan's match.
That objective was achieved when Timur Kapadze scored the
only goal in the 49th minute in Tashkent to send the Uzbeks into
the fourth round along with Japan and end North Korea's hopes.
Uzbekistan also have 10 points after their third win from
four matches with North Korea, who reached the finals in South
Africa last year, third on three points with only two matches
Having trounced Tajikistan 8-0 in Osaka last month Japan
were again expected to steamroller their opponents, ranked 130th
by FIFA, but their neat passing game suffered in a difficult
first period on the patchy pitch at Dushanbe Central Stadium.
Konno eased the nerves, however, when he converted a rebound
in the 36th minute to score his first goal for Japan.
Okazaki headed the second just past the hour mark with
substitute Maeda firing home from the edge of the area with
eight minutes remaining.
VfB Stuttgart striker Okazaki then wrapped up the scoring in
stoppage-time with his 26th goal for the Blue Samurai.
Japan travel to Pyongyang to play North Korea on Tuesday,
while Tajikistan, who cannot qualify for the next phase after
their fourth defeat in the group, are away to Uzbekistan.
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